Thanksgiving is here – the time of year when we enjoy family, friends and delicious food. Like many others who are watching their diets and health, you may be wondering, “how do I maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the holidays?” And if you’re a parent, you may want to establish some new holiday traditions that help youngsters steer clear of holiday pitfalls.

Try a few 5-2-1-0 tips in order to enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving.

Start with 5 fruits and vegetables a day.

When planning your Thanksgiving meal, be sure to include lots of fruits and vegetable options. Remember, when you can’t buy fresh produce, frozen and canned are just as good, so long as you avoid added salt and sugar. Adding steamed or boiled dishes such as broccoli, squash, turnip, peas, carrots, onions or steamed apples with cinnamon to your feast will help boost your intake of these essential foods. When selecting what to put on your plate, divide the plate visually into quarters. Recommendations include one quarter meat or other protein, one quarter starch and the other half fruits and veggies.

Think 2 hours or less of recreational screen time.

This can be the tricky one! From the Macy’s parade in the morning to NFL games in the afternoon, it is tempting to have the television on all day long. However, there are ways to stay active during your favorite holiday programming. Take a stretch break with each commercial break. Get up and walk around the house. If you are set up to do so, participate in dinner clean-up while watching the game.

Include 1 hour or more of physical activity.

Don’t worry – this doesn’t have to be in one chunk! Breaking up your activity throughout the day can have positive effects as well. When everyone is done with dinner, suggest a family walk around the block before dessert is served. During half-time, take a ball out in the back yard and have a family game.

Aim for 0 sugary drinks and more water and low-fat milk.

Save room for dinner! If you do enjoy festive holiday drinks, consider those with fewer calories and fat. For example, steamed apple cider tends to contain significantly fewer calories than eggnog.

Finally, check out the recipe below for a tasty holiday dessert that is lower in calories and higher in nutritional value than some more traditional offerings.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season!

Pumpkin Spice Cake (12 servings)

1 box spice cake mix

1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin — not pie filling

1. Combine spice cake mix and pumpkin thoroughly.

2. Spray 11 X 8 baking pan with cooking spray. Bake 350° F for 35 minutes or

until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

3. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 12 pieces.

Note: You may want to add raisins or nuts to the mixture. You can also top

off this cake with some powdered sugar. This cake also freezes well.

Nutrition Information per Serving = 195 calories, 3 grams fat, 1 gram fiber


For more information on 5-2-1-0 and many healthy lifestyle tips, visit or

Lee Averill and Martha Bell administer the 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go! program through Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.


Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at