10 Ways to Shave 1,200 Calories Off Your Thanksgiving Dinner
Take a few pointers from writer Alisa Hrustic and you won't even notice that certain classic foods aren't on your plate
Thanksgiving is arguably your most caloric meal of the year. You will be surrounded by food, booze, and family members that want you to eat more food and drink more booze.
So naturally, you'll fall into the trap of eating way more than your stomach should handle—and that's totally fine. It's one meal out of your entire year, and a damn good one at that.
Luckily, if you are concerned about the major turkey and booze hangover most of us will experience the next day, there are a few small but effective choices you can make at the table to save yourself hundreds of calories without sacrificing any flavor.
The best part? You'll still get to eat all of your favorite foods—dessert included. Read on to find out how.
OPT FOR WHITE MEAT OVER DARK MEAT
Okay, there’s no way you’re missing the star of the show. Turkey will likely be your main source of protein during your Thanksgiving dinner, so feel free to load up your plate.
However, if you want to save a few extra calories for the rest of your meal, go for white turkey breast over dark meat, suggests Jim White, R.D. owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. Four ounces, or a palm-sized portion, of roasted white meat serves you 167 calories, while the same amount of dark meat gets you 195 calories.
Calories saved: 28
LOSE THE BREAD AND ADD EXTRA VEGETABLE
“There are so many foods to choose from on the Thanksgiving table,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. “Eliminate the one item that is more like an add on than a part of the entrée.”
Translation: Ditch the bread roll, since just one biscuit typically comes in at 165 calories, she says. Instead, add more of your favorite filling vegetables to your plate. You’ll be eating more food for fewer calories. In comparison, a cup of roasted Brussels sprouts will only cost you 56 calories.
Calories saved: 109
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TOPPINGS
Your toppings can make a huge difference, especially if you tend to pile on too much. For instance, a handful of seasoned croutons typically adds an extra 46 empty calories to your salad, but replacing them with 1/4 cup of fresh pomegranate arils (like these from POM Wonderful) will bring that down to 33 calories and offer some sweetness, vitamin C, and fiber, says Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., owner of Mohr Results.
The same goes for those toasted marshmallows on top of your sweet potato casserole. Just three of those fluffy sugar bombs serve 67 calories, so sprinkle on the pomegranate arils instead.
Calories saved replacing croutons: 13
Calories saved replacing marshmallows: 34
GO FOR GREEK YOGURT INSTEAD OF SOUR CREAM
Chances are, your mashed potatoes already contain lots of butter and milk, so they’re probably pretty tasty on their own. But if you can’t resist that dollop of sour cream, try Greek yogurt instead, says White.
Calories saved: 43
USE THE ONE LAYER RULE
“When you create your dinner plate, everything should be in one layer,” says Gans. “If foods are piled on top of other foods, your portions are probably way too large.”
Say you pile a serving of green bean casserole on top of your mashed potatoes, because they're both your favorites. One cup of mashed potatoes adds 237 calories onto your meal, while the same amount of green bean casserole gets you 200. Cut them both down to 1/2 cup to make room for each on your plate sans stacking.
Calories saved: 218
SECTION OFF YOUR STARCHES
Starches are your side dishes, not the main event, says White. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, though. You just have to be smart about it.
Say your three favorite starches are mashed potatoes (3/4 cup for 178 calories), sweet potato casserole (3/4 cup for 257 calories), and stuffing (3/4 cup for 292 calories). Limit a quarter of your plate to just one or two of your favorites, suggests White. This way you won’t feel deprived while eating a more balanced meal.
Calories saved by nixing the worst offender: 292
MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN CRANBERRY SAUCE
It’s not Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, but the pre-made kind can be loaded with sugar, says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer.
Just 1/4 cup of the canned variety gets you 110 calories—so just make your own and cut back on the sweet stuff. Find a recipe you like and cut the sugar content in half, you’ll save an average of 44 calories, says Ansel.
Calories saved: 44
CHOOSE PUMPKIN INSTEAD OF PECAN PIE
We’re not going to tell you to skip dessert completely, because your Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it. So go for the pie that packs less of a caloric punch, says White.
Calories saved: 187
…AND SKIP THE SCOOP OF ICE CREAM ON TOP
If you’re going to have some pie, skip the vanilla ice cream on top, says Gans. You’ll save yourself 137 calories per half cup. If you must top your dessert with an extra dose of sweetness, 3 tablespoons of whipped cream only comes in at 23 calories.
Calories saved: 114
THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK
Let's be real: getting together with your entire family can be stressful. So naturally, you'll be tempted to reach for a drink at some point.
If you must imbibe, think about your pour, says Ansel. “The average wine glass easily holds 12 to 14 oz, and research shows the bigger the glass the more we pour into it,” she says. Use a champagne flute glass instead, which only holds 6 oz, so you’ll drink roughly 150 calories less of red wine.
Calories saved: 150
TOTAL CALORIES SAVED:
1,232 (and you still got to eat dessert!)