10 Tips to Trim the Fat from Thanksgiving Dinner

| Posted On Nov 09, 2012 | By:

For most Americans, Thanksgiving marks the official start of the Holiday Feasting Season.  With the average Thanksgiving dinner weighing in at over 3,000 calories (most adults only need 1,500-2,000 calories per day), it’s no wonder most of us will roll into the New Year at least a few pounds heavier.  Holidays and weight gain don’t have to be synonymous, however, if you do some advance planning and make smart choices at the dinner table.

The following suggestions can shave at least 1,000 calories off of a typical Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Eat breakfast. Eating a balanced, healthy meal before the food comes out makes it much easier to say NO to high fat appetizers like cheese and crackers or creamy artichoke dip, and YES to the shrimp cocktail and veggie platter.  Average savings:  400 calories.
  2. Alternate your spirits with a calorie free beverage.  Calories from wine, beer, or any alcoholic drink can add up, so alternate with a glass of seltzer or diet soda.  Average savings per drink:  150 calories.
  3. Start with soup.  Broth-based soups like vegetable or turkey noodle are low in calories and help you to fill up faster, which means you probably won’t need seconds (or thirds) on your main meal.  Average savings:  varies
  4. Choose white meat over dark, and skip the skin – it’s all fat.  Turkey meat is a lean protein overall, but choosing the breast without skin makes it even healthier.  Average savings: 50 calories per 4oz portion.
  5. Take just one scoop less of starches like mashed potatoes, stuffing or sweet potatoes.  These 3 foods contribute most of the calories to Thanksgiving dinner, so cutting back just a bit on portions here can really make a difference.  Average savings:  at least 80-100 calories per ¼ cup scoop for each.
  6. Offer to bring homemade sugar free cranberry sauce or relish, and avoid the added sugar (and calories) in regular cranberry sauce.  Average savings:  50 calories per ¼ cup serving.
  7. Load up on veggies.  Most vegetables have only 25 calories per ½ cup serving, not to mention they’re good for you, so this one is a no-brainer.   Try to fill at least ½ of your plate with vegetables (from both salads and cooked vegetables) to make your plate healthier and help you fill you up faster.  Average savings:  varies.
  8. Choose your dessert wisely.  A slice of pumpkin pie (300 calories) has fewer calories than apple (400 calories) and way less than pecan (500 calories).  Or, maybe just a cookie would do (50 calories), so choose wisely.   If you really love it, have it, but split it with someone.
  9. Take a brisk walk after dinner instead of a nap.  Average calories burned:  200 for a 20-minute walk.
  10. Make your late night turkey sandwich “open-face” and skip half the bread.  Average savings: 80 calories.

(Editor’s Note: Anne wrote a related blog post during last year’s holiday season.  To read this post and get all of her helpful holiday tips, please click here.)

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About Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN

Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN has been a Nutritionist with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for the past 15 years, and she currently works as the “Virtual Nutritionist." Her professional interests include weight management, heart disease, and women’s nutritional issues. When she isn’t working, you can usually find her in the kitchen testing recipes that are healthy AND delicious.

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