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Eat This, Not That: Thanksgiving Edition

The holidays can be a difficult time to stay on track. With all the delicious foods that you have only once a year, it can be easy to overindulge. But those extra calories can make an impact on your weight and health. Believe it or not, Americans eat approximately 4,500 calories over the course of Thanksgiving Day, and on average over 3,000 calories during the Thanksgiving meal alone!1 That’s two and a half times the average calorie limit per day! Those calories add up fast and one day could undo all of your hard work.

Take a look at this Thanksgiving meal to see how it all adds up:

traditional thanksgiving dinner calorie count

All calorie counts found with Calorie King

This traditional Thanksgiving meal comes in at over 2,200 calories! With appetizers, side dishes, and desserts, the calories can quickly add up. But the holidays don’t have to sabotage your goals! By making simple swaps and tweaks, you can still enjoy those Thanksgiving favorites, without all the guilt. Here are some simple changes you can make that don’t break the bank!

healthy thanksgiving dinner calorie count

All calorie counts found with Calorie King

By making small changes, you can save 1,160 calories! Modifying recipes and having smaller portion sizes are only a few options for lowering those calories.

Here are some additional tips to have a healthy Thanksgiving:

  1. Change the recipe by substituting for healthy ingredients!
    • Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey.
    • Use sugar substitutes like fruit in place of sugar.
    • Use non-fat or low fat dairy products like skim milk, light sour cream, or Greek yogurt.
    • Opt for whole grains and whole wheat varieties.
    • Spice it up! Use herbs and spices, like basil, garlic, oregano, and rosemary to season food.
  2. Plan ahead! Have a plan of what foods you want to eat. It can help limit those extra calories.
  3. Choose foods that you only have during the holidays, and limit the ones that you have year-round, so you can enjoy those holiday favorites.
  4. Build your plate with the Choose MyPlate Recommendations. Enjoy all the food groups:
    • Fruits and vegetables should take up half your plate
    • ¼ protein – turkey
    • ¼ grains – stuffing
  1. Use a smaller plate! The smaller the plate, the smaller the portions. And limit it to one serving!
  2. Opt for lower calories beverages like water to limit added sugars and empty calories.
  3. Eat mindfully. Eat slowly and enjoy the meal by savoring all the flavors and textures and pausing in between bites. Be fully present and eliminate distractions like the TV with the football game. Your brain needs at least 20 minutes to send out signals of fullness. By eating mindfully, you will know when you are satisfied (WebMD).
  4. Get Active! It can be easy to sit and relax after a big meal, but take advantage of the extra time and get moving! Play a football game before dinner or enjoy a walk with everyone before dessert!
  5. Be the life of the party! Focus on family and friends rather than food.
  6. Enjoy leftovers the next day. It can be tempting to go back for seconds, but save those leftovers to create some new healthy meals! The possibilities are endless!
  7. Looking for some new healthy recipes for Thanksgiving? Check out these healthy recipes for a homemade cranberry sauce and for a new spin on the traditional turkey featured on the UPMC MyHealth Matters blog!