Healthy Meal Ideas

Why You Should *Not* Skip Breakfast on Thanksgiving—and What to Eat Instead

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Photo: Tina Haupert

Ah, Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know about you, but in my family, it becomes a contest to see who can pack away the most turkey, cranberry sauce, and all those delicious fixings—with room for dessert! I was always taught that the best way to "prepare" was to starve myself all day in anticipation of the meal. But trust me, it's tough to remember what you're grateful for and enjoy the family time when you're lightheaded and your blood sugar is dropping.

Of course, I had it all wrong: The best way to full prep for an all-out feast is to eat a nutrient-rich breakfast, one loaded with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. And the last thing you want to do is skip breakfast—or any meals prior to dinner. "Fasting is not a smart option, since it translates into chemical changes, including an increase in cortisol levels, a subsequent increase in blood sugar levels, and muscle wasting," explains Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Kristen Tinker. "Instead, deliberate eating throughout the day is critical, and it starts with breakfast."

"Deliberate eating throughout the day is critical, and it starts with breakfast."

Tinker also says staying hydrated all day long is non-negotiable. "Juice, alcohol, champagne, and flavored coffees increase blood sugar levels and start the cascade of cravings and poor choices," says Tinker. "Instead, aim for consuming 50 to 70 percent of your body weight in fluid ounces of lemon water to alkalize your body and to detox the liver, especially with all the holiday foods."

And if you can, start your day with some exercise—like a 30-minute brisk walk or 15-minute high intensity interval workout—because it will help you burn fat throughout the day. (Maybe the fam should sign up for that a.m. turkey trot after all!)

Breakfast, however, is your most important ally. Eat a morning meal that includes healthy proteins, fats, and fiber to stabilize your blood sugar levels and help fight off cravings before dinner.

Here are 4 breakfast ideas to keep your hunger at bay as you build up to the main meal of the day—okay fine, of the year!

Thanksgiving breakfast recipes
Photo: Monique Volz

Cottage Cheese Banana Oatmeal Protein Pancakes

If your sweet tooth needs satisfying first thing in the morning, these delish pancakes from Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen pack in a whopping 20 grams of protein and taste exactly like banana bread. If you stick to a gluten-free diet, simply make with GF oats. Plus, no need to worry about taking up valuable space in the kitchen before the major cooking gets underway—just blend up the ingredients, grill, and enjoy!

Thanksgiving breakfast recipes
Photo: Monica Matheny

Slow-Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal

The best part of this filling breakfast from Monica Matheny of The Yummy Life is that you can prep it the night before. That means you're out of excuses to skip breakfast or reach for something sugary. It also makes seven servings so all your house guests can enjoy a filling start to the day together. (Aww!)

Thanksgiving breakfast recipes
Photo: Made by Michelle

3. Pumpkin Peanut Butter Energy Balls

These tasty, protein and fiber packed treats from Made by Michelle can last in your fridge up to one week, so you can enjoy them with all the other leftovers from your holiday feast. (Also, um, PB.) And hey, why not make them in advance so you have one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving morning?

Thanksgiving breakfast recipes
Photo: Tina Haupert

Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Feta Egg Bake

If for you, breakfast doesn't feel complete without eggs, this easy egg-centric dish from Tina Haupert's Carrots 'N' Cake brings together a trifecta of fresh and filling ingredients that kicks off that Thanksgiving state of mind.

Now that you have a holiday breakfast plan, round out your eating schedule with a killer sweet potato side or a veggie-friendly entree.

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