No holiday celebrates family & food like Thanksgiving. Each family has their own traditions, but most feature a stuffed turkey and amazing seasonal produce like pumpkins and apples. Thanksgiving is meant to be celebrated with a feast, but you decide the direction your feast takes. Some smart substitutions can save you hundreds of calories! Read on for our dietitians special Thanksgiving Calorie Counter and valuable tips.
Did you know that 2 cups of steamed green beans have the same amount of calories as a spoonful of green bean casserole? When you look at the calorie counter below, you can see that your food choices can make an amazing difference to your calorie tally at the end of the day. But there is much more you can do to avoid undoing your belt after the feast.
Here are the Calorie King’s –registered dietitian Allan Borushek- Thanksgiving tips along with recipes from our library.
- The most important thing to remember during a holiday feast is portion control. It’s easier than you may think to top your entire day’s calorie allowance in one Thanksgiving meal!
- Eat small amounts of a variety of your favorite foods, skipping the foods that are not. Don’t go for seconds unless you are actually hungry. Moderation is key to success.
- Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. In those 20 minutes, you can do a lot of overeating if you eat too quickly.
- Incorporate exercise as a part of your holiday affairs, such as a group walk after the big meal.
Starters and Appetizers
- Nuts are healthy, but limit your intake to a small handful, since they are high in calories & fat.
- Popular regional appetizers, such as hush puppies and crab cakes, are a calorie-heavy choice to start off your meal. Try baking them versus frying, or instead, replace them with lower-calorie options such as vegetables.
- Include fresh vegetables as an appetizer, such as veggies with low or fat-free dips. For example, choosing fat-free Ranch dip over regular saves you over 100 calories per ounce!
- When buying dinner rolls, look for higher fiber and nutrient choices such as wholegrain versus white bread.
- Cranberry Turkey Salad
Tasty salad that provides two fruit and veggie servings.
- Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
Each serving of creamy butternut squash soup is equal to one and one-third veggie servings.
- Smoked Turkey Tea Sandwiches
These versatile sandwiches are a sure hit at a tea or an aprés ski gathering!
- Spicy Pumpkin Soup
This zesty, flavorful soup is lower in calories, fat and sodium than traditional squash soup thanks to a Recipe Makeover.
- Turkey-Olive Appetizers
Ooh, la la! Trendy, retro appetizers just waiting for a party to attend!
Turkey & Stuffing
- If you’re watching your weight; light meat (breast, back) is lower in calories than dark meat (leg, thigh, wing). It saves you about 30 calories per 4oz. Stripping off the skin detracts another 25 calories.
- Make your gravy at home from turkey and/or vegetable juices and little to no butter. Commercially made gravies are often high in sodium. If you do go for store-bought, get thin -not thick- gravy.
- There’s not much difference between regular cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly. Low-sugar cranberry sauce is a better choice, if you can find it. Homemade cranberry sauce made with very little sugar is the healthiest option and is surprisingly very easy to make.
- If you choose a vegetarian “turkey”, be aware that they are generally high in sodium. A 4oz piece adds about 400mg to your sodium tally.
- Homemade stuffing made with lower-sodium and lower-calorie ingredients can be a good choice.
- Autumn Rice Stuffing
Tired of soggy, pre-packaged breadcrumb stuffing mixes? Try this homemade, brown rice stuffing – it’s easy, healthy and delicious!
- California Walnut and Apple Herb Stuffing
A scrumptious made-from-scratch stuffing, yet easy to make!
- Citrus Roasted Turkey
A fresh citrus flavor adding new appeal to the traditional roast turkey.
- Guilt-Free Turkey Gravy
Top your bird and potatoes with this light gravy.
- Southern Roast Turkey with Bourbon Peach Glaze
An elegant Southern twist to the traditional roast turkey.
- For many, casseroles are staples on Thanksgiving. The downside to these popular side dishes is that they are often loaded with fat. Make an effort to reduce the amount of butter and cheese in your casseroles. Or better yet, instead of serving a sweet potato casserole, serve baked sweet potatoes and save about 150 calories per 4oz! And instead of a traditional green bean casserole, steam green beans –to retain their crispiness and flavor- and lightly top with crushed almonds. This can save you 200 calories per cup.
- A mixed green salad is always a good choice as a side dish. Just be aware of what you top it with. Limit salad dressings, even low-fat. These often contain sugar to ‘make up’ for the lack of fat.
- Acorn Squash Stuffed with Pears, Wild Rice, Walnuts
This tasty dish “dresses up” the meal – serve it on the side or as a light vegetarian entrée.
- Couscous with Dried Cranberries, Pine Nuts and Fresh Mint
A deliciously nutty dish with the tasty zing of cranberries and mint. Enjoy by itself, as a side dish, or as a leftover salad.
- Honey-Roasted Parsnips with Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Parsnips, sweet potatoes and apples roasted in a honey-based sauce rendering a sweet and satisfying fall side dish.
- Lemon-Walnut Green Beans
Each serving equals one and a half vegetable servings.
- Mashed Idaho Potatoes
This Recipe Makeover can be made stove-top or in a crock-pot/slow cooker. It is sure to be a hit, especially during the holiday season!
- Your choice of dessert can make an enormous difference to your calorie tally for Thanksgiving Day and in the long run, to your waistline. All pies and cakes are high in calories and sugar. A large slice of a rich pie serving can easily add 500 calories, about a full meal’s worth! If you do choose cake; portion control is key. Remember why you’re having dessert; you’re finishing your meal on a sweet note, you’re not filling an empty stomach. So cut a small slice and take the time to enjoy every bite!
- A great choice for dessert is fruit; it’s generally low in calories, high in fiber and bursting with vitamins and minerals. Even serving topped with a ½ cup of fat-free ice cream or a little lower-calorie whipped topping for some indulgence won’t even come close in calories to the average slice of pie.
- Apple Cranberry Streusel Pie
The mingling of apple and cranberry makes this festive pie a grand finalé to the meal!
- Brandy Pumpkin Flan with Hazelnut Crust
Our Recipe Makeover is a delicious lower-calorie alternative to the traditional pumpkin pie – perfect for special occasions and holidays.
- Cashew Cream
A non-dairy substitute for whipped cream.
- Cranberry-Banana Mold
Brighten up your table with this festive, easy-to-make gelatin mold!
- Crustless Pumpkin Pie
An easy, lower-calorie version of the traditional pie.
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Gluten free or not, mini or regular sized, these spicy raisin muffins are unbeatable!
- Holiday Eggnog Pie
Looking for something new to top off a holiday meal? Try this easy-to-prepare dessert
- Low-Fat Persimmon Muffins
Delicious fruited muffins to start off your morning!
- Pumpkin Pie
A carb-light version of the traditional pie with a 36% calorie reduction!
- A can of regular soda is full of calories but devoid of nutrients. One 12oz can contains about 150 empty calories and about 10(!) teaspoons of sugar. Diet sodas, although lower in calories, is a non-nutrient choice. Better off supplementing your meal with water.
- If you do drink alcohol, start with a glass of water to make sure you’re not drinking alcohol because you’re thirsty. And have a glass of water between every alcoholic drink.
- The average 4oz glass of table wine contains 100 calories and 3g carbs. A 12oz can of regular beer has 140 calories and 10g carbs. Depending on size and type, cocktails can vary from 100 to 700 calories and 0 to 100g carbs. After dinner liqueurs/cordials and liqueur coffees can vary from 65 to 105 calories and 4 to 25g carbs.
- Cranberry Spritzer
A refreshing, festive drink pretty enough to serve in a party punch bowl.
- Eggnog Wassail
An easy-to-make holiday eggnog with an apple cider twist, this Recipe Makeover shrinks the calories and fat.
- Pumpkin Nog
Eggnog with a flavorful harvest twist, this indulgent drink makes enough to serve a crowd.
- Vanilla Mochaccino
Mmmm, a delightful mocha coffee drink, fancy enough for a celebration!
Want more CalorieKing-approved recipes? Check out our Thanksgiving recipe library!