This time of year is always my favorite. I love the cozy feeling of fall and it always feels like a really healthy time of year for the soul. We give thanks for all we have and shortly after, we have the chance to make New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s is always promising and for most, a very motivating time to creat new goals, as well as a time to reflect on all that we have accomplished the year before-well, at least that is how it usually goes for me. But when it comes to our nutritional health, this is typically our most unhealthy time of year for our bodies. Climates change and in some places, change to drastically low numbers, we get busy and stressed with shopping, and of course, our diet changes. We attend holiday parties and feasts of celebrations for this special time. And we consume A LOT! All of us! I just saw on Fox News that apparently the average person eats 4500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving ALONE (Click here to see it for yourself!) Seriously! And they went on to say that 9% of those calories are from the snacking that goes on before the meal has even begun. Wow. So, as this time is quickly approaching, I have been trying to come up with some ways to make this time a little healthier for all of us.

This year I am hosting my first Thanksgiving at my house so I have a lot of control over what I serve, and therefore eat. I have decided to keep the appetizers healthy, basic and to a minimum (sorry family!). Raw veggies with hummus is a great starter-as boring as it seems, you probably won’t be eating many veggies during dinner…we certainly don’t at our house…so why not get them now! Things like celery and cucumber are filled with water and very few calories. Hummus is definitely better than ranch as it has some nutritional value with the beans, olive oil, etc…nuts is also a great thing to serve which will help soak up the alcohol being consumed, in addition to being heart healthy and filling. On that note, my girlfriend Jill, a nutritionist major at CSUN, has an excellent article on alcohol dos and don’ts, which is a great guideline for the holiday season (Click here for the article). Red wine is always the lowest sugar choice and is cleaner than a lot of the cocktails that will be floating around on trays this season. So, when in doubt, grab the antioxidant rich red over the Hot Toddy. And make sure to drink your H2O all throughout the day and night. Add some lemon to aid the digestion of what is sure to be a rich meal.

If you are partaking in some of the cooking, why not substitute agave for sugar where you can? Raw agave is a much healthier alternative and sweetens cooked food with an excellent taste. If you don’t like agave, how about using raw honey or maple syrup? If you can, the bottom line is to avoid the sugar-it really is the worst sweetener of all. Check for yourself! Try and go for fresh cranberries with orange zest and honey over the canned stuff for your cranberry sauce. Perhaps even opt out of the marshmallows on your yams this year if you can easily live without it.

Here are some great websites that have healthier recipe options that are still filled with flavor and may even have more nutrition:

(Please add your suggestions for great websites for Turkey day dishes and comment with any of your favorite healthful ideas as I am sure I’m not the only one still working on my menu)

When it comes time to eat, take Dr. Michelle May’s, author and blogger of Eat What You Love Love What You Eat, do just that-eat what you love. If you love stuffing more than two dinner rolls with butter, why not forgo the rolls for a little extra stuffing? How about skip the gravy if you much prefer the cranberry sauce? Eat what you love and try to stop before you are sick to your stomach so the holiday is as special as you anticipated it would be. Who wants to spend that special day with friends and family on the couch miserably full from over eating? Not worth it!

And if you just can’t imagine your holidays without your traditions, full sugar, Hot Toddy and all, try to keep a balance of health on all of the days and nights you won’t be out on the town. Get plenty of exercise, eat well, sleep well and hydrate often to insure you stay illness free during a most joyous time of the year!