How to Have a Low Stress Thanksgiving: Plan Ahead and Stick to Dietary Plans to be Healthy and Happy

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for what we have, and about family coming home and sharing memories and fun times over a delicious meal.

And so it should be a happy time and a time for making new memories. It should not be a stressful time. Four key elements can help to make it as stress free as possible. These are:

  • Organization
  • Preparation
  • Prioritizing
  • Delegation

Get Organized

Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts. Good food is good food. Make a menu and from it a shopping list. Plan ahead and make as many dishes as you can a few days before. Pay attention to proper storage and temperatures. If it’s not possible to make the dishes, assemble all of the ingredients in one place along with the recipe so that they can be made without a lot of extra steps.

The most important step is making sure the Thanksgiving turkey has plenty of time to thaw without getting too warm and allowing bacteria to grow. Follow directions carefully. Consider purchasing a fresh turkey and not having to stress over the thawing process. The economy is bad, and this is an added expense, but sometimes a few dollars spent to save time and prevent illness can be a wise investment.

Be sure to cook the bird thoroughly and don’t eat any stuffing from inside the bird. Make the stuffing separate in a baking dish. Stuffing from inside the turkey has been shown to harbor bacteria and it is not a pleasant thing to get sick from a holiday meal.

Frying a turkey is also not safe. Cooks and observers can be badly burned and if the fryer gets tipped over, it can cause a very hot flash fire.

Prioritize and Prepare

In addition to the menu, prioritize the prep and cooking schedule. For instance, if chopped onions are needed for several dishes, chop them all at once. Finely chopped items can be easily separated from the more coarsely chopped, if needed. Or buy them already chopped.

Prepare a cooking schedule. Make a plan for which items can occupy the oven at the same time and be ready to add new items in as you take others out. Use a timer and delegate someone to also listen for it as a back up.


Delegate something to each person who will be attending. Out of town guests can be given an assignment as well. They can bring something from home, or if they are familiar with the area, they can go pick up some flowers or a bottle of wine. If that’s not possible, they can be given tasks such as setting the table, or to be part of the clean up committee.

Lastly, be reasonable. It’s very easy to overindulge at the holidays, but it’s not healthy. This is especially true for those who have been observing very special dietary plans. A sudden change can cause a lot of intestinal distress. Use healthier recipes, and stick to moderate helpings. Leftovers can be enjoyed for days to come. Enjoy the time with friends and family and don’t spend it uncomfortable or in the bathroom.

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