Diet-Friendly Thanksgiving Tips

Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008

Image via Wikipedia

“You can’t have Thanksgiving without turkey. That’s like Fourth of July without apple pie, or Friday with no two pizzas.” — Joey, Friends

Thanksgiving dinner can be a healthy meal, if you approach it sensibly, and it only comes once a year, so I think you should enjoy it.  But don’t let it sabotage your weight management plan, either.

Figure Out Those Calories!

Are you wondering how many calories will be in your Thanksgiving dinner?  You’ve got to try this very cool Thanksgiving dinner calorie calculator.

Before the Thanksgiving meal…

  • Eat breakfast. Skipping meals will cause you to overeat. Consider oatmeal, eggs or Greek yogurt.
  • Drink water. Sometimes you can confuse being hungry with being dehydrated.
  • Exercise. Take a brisk walk or join one of the Thanksgiving Day walks/races.
  • Skip the alcohol. Did you know that people drink more alcohol on Thanksgiving than on any other holiday? And the night before Thanksgiving is when the heaviest drinking occurs. Alcohol has lots of calories and it lowers your inhibitions, tempting you to eat more.
  • If appetizers are available, skip the crackers and cheese and eat veggies and olives, instead.

Preparing a meal vs. Dining Out

There is no question you will save calories if you choose to dine out rather than prepare a big meal. It is one thing to have one calorie-laden meal…it’s another to have second helpings and leftovers later.

The average, home-cooked Thanksgiving meal is about 3,000 calories, not counting alcohol or appetizers. That’s too much! By contrast, the Thanksgiving meal at Cracker Barrel is 570 calories. Portion control is EVERYTHING.

Cutting calories without sacrificing flavor

If you do choose to make your own meal, there are lots of ways you can save calories and still make your meal taste delicious.

  • Turkey is a real winner for dinner. It has more protein than chicken, ham or beef.
  • Make mashed potatoes with buttermilk and add some garlic or chives if you want more flavor. Result: 80 calories a serving.
  • Use a dry gravy mix or canned turkey gravy. You will save 125 calories a serving.
  • Make stuffing with chicken stock or vegetable stock instead of butter. It will still be moist and delicious but much lower in fat.
  • You’ll save 200 calories a serving if you eat steamed green beans instead of green bean casserole. I know, I love it, too.
  • One serving of cranberry sauce is 1/4 cup and 110 calories. See if you can get by with a tablespoon instead.
  • Just eat one roll — it’s about 100 to 150 calories.
  • Choose pumpkin pie for dessert. It has the least calories. If you choose apple pie or pecan pie, just be aware you are also choosing up to 400 extra calories. Fortunately, that spray can whipped cream only has 15 calories, so you can be lavish with that! I don’t eat the crust of my pumpkin pie — that’s where a lot of the fat and calories live and I’m fine without it or just a nibble of it.
  • Another treat? Coffee or decaf with Coffeemate pumpkin spice creamer (35 calories a tablespoon). Add some spray whipped cream and cinnamon on top! Or have a cup of peppermint tea to ease your digestion, or chamomile tea to relax.

How do you keep your diet on track during Thanksgiving?  Will you be working out on Turkey Day?

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