Thanksgiving has long been my favourite holiday. Surrounded by friends, family, and food, without the stress that bigger holidays like Christmas bring, what’s not to love?

Traditionally a celebration of the season’s harvest, Thanksgiving is a holiday of abundance. While that abundance is something to be grateful for, it can also lead to food hangovers and the guilt of derailing our health goals.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five ways to create a Thanksgiving feast that is all about health and happiness without compromising on taste.

The bright side of life

Sides dishes are where the real Thanksgiving magic happens. They hold the colours, flavours, and variety of the fall harvest. When you’re planning your side dishes, whether to make them yourself or for assigning to guests to bring, emphasize vegetables, legumes and whole grains. When you’re filling your plate at the table, give priority to all of the healthy side dishes. As an added bonus, if any of your guests have dietary restrictions, sides also offer a lot of flexibility to make sure you have something for everyone.

Sweet dreams are made of healthy desserts

There are so many nutritious ingredients that can satisfy a sweet tooth. Apples, cinnamon, pumpkin, cranberries, and rhubarb – all the hallmarks of the Thanksgiving desserts table are healthy, whole foods. The trick to keeping them that way is to find ways to bring out their naturally rich flavours without covering them in refined sugar and processed flour. Baked apples are an easy dessert that will make you forget pie exists. Top them with cinnamon, cranberries, and chopped pecans for a real treat.

Sneak veggies into everything

Seriously. Everything. You will be surprised how easy it is and how much it improves the taste and texture of your meal. If you’re serving a salad, blend together a simple dressing of baby spinach, tomato, lemon juice and olive oil. Add a variety of vegetables to your mashed potatoes by swapping out some of the potatoes for sweet potato and steamed cauliflower. Instead of a cream-based dip, opt for a hummus blended with greens or pumpkin. The possibilities are endless.

Be a social butterfly

Focus on friends and family as the main event. Put your fork down, take an eating break, step away from your plate, and socialize instead. Thanksgiving is about being with those you care about in a way that’s meaningful and memorable.

Give thanks

The origins of Thanksgiving in Canada are based around a sense of gratitude. When Martin Frobisher landed in Newfoundland in the late 1500’s, he gave thanks for his safe arrival at what was to be the first Thanksgiving in North America. Continuing this tradition of thanks today is a great way to spend the holiday weekend. Research shows that not only does experiencing gratitude increase happiness, satisfaction, and wellbeing, but it can also help strengthen relationships. Building a gratitude practice into your celebration, whether through taking turns counting blessings or writing notes of thanks to one another, can help build bonds among loved ones.