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Your Thanksgiving Plate

For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving, there may be some questions about how to build a satisfying plate. Especially when there are so many possible options!

Before jumping into focusing on the plate alone, I encourage you to read this blog post from a few years ago about Navigating the Holiday Season, to help with the holiday overall. One of the most important things to remember going into Thanksgiving (as well as any type of gathering or holiday) is not to “save up” calories or your eating earlier in the day; this type of mentality typically backfires for folks as you then enter the holiday meal ravenous/really low on the hunger scale). This increases the likelihood of eating past comfortable fullness and having an urgent, chaotic experience with the food overall, which does not create for a satisfying experience!

Now onto the plate…

Focusing on the macronutrients - carbohydrates, protein and fat first is usually a good foundation to build from. This ensures energy density as these are the only nutrients that can provide us with energy (AKA calories). From there pulling in other remaining food groups like produce and dairy can be helpful. Now remember, this is loose guidance and should not be applied in a rigid sense. Your Thanksgiving plate should ultimately reflect your favorite foods and does not need to be a “perfect plate” (there’s no such thing anyway!). But aiming for a variety of different food groups in the items that you do like can help to create more satiety with the meal.

Common carbohydrate options at Thanksgiving:

  • Potatoes. Mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole - you name it and potatoes are a yummy starch option

  • Dinner rolls, bread, cornbread, etc.

  • Stuffing

  • Macaroni and cheese


  • Turkey

  • Ham

  • Chicken

  • Duck

  • Any meatless alternative such as tofurkey, tofu, tempeh or seitan


  • Dishes cooked or served with cooking oils, butter, gravy, cheese, salad dressing, etc. will contain fat from these sources. And yes, it’s completely OK to eat and enjoy fat!

  • If dishes were not prepared with the above additions for whatever reason, consider adding butter, gravy, or dressing to items such as bread or rolls, meat, mashed potatoes, vegetable, salads, (or whatever on your plate you want to really) to add sufficient fat.


  • Cranberry sauce

  • Green bean casserole

  • Salads

  • Cooked carrots

  • Creamed kale or spinach

  • Squash

  • Any other vegetable side dishes you may find at your Thanksgiving table


  • Common ingredients used in above dishes such as milk, cream, sour cream or cheese can help to incorporate dairy at this meal

  • Depending on your needs and/or personal preference, consider having a glass of milk with your meal (or dessert!)


  • Dessert is not a food group of its own, but can be an important part of the holidays. You’re allowed to enjoy desserts in their original form; not everything needs to be made “healthier”!

Some other tips to help with the satisfaction factor at Thanksgiving can include:

  • Checking in with yourself throughout the meal. Refer above to the hunger scale if needed as loose guidance to check in with during eating.

  • Try not to compare to others plates around you. Comparison does you no favors; everybody has different nutrient needs and taste preferences and your only concern should be if your plate emulates those for you!

  • It’s important enough to reiterate again - do not skip meals prior to the holiday meal! It’s very hard to be mindful and check in on what we want to eat and how much of a portion may help us reach comfortable fullness and satiety when we’re so dang hungry that’s all we can focus on.

  • Finally, enjoy the meal! Enjoy the food, enjoy the company. Keep in mind, the Thanksgiving meal is only one meal out of over 1,000 meals consumed in a year (assuming someone eats three meals a day each day).

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m so grateful for all of the support for this page!


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