Your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't have to be diet-busting

November 23, 2011 8:10:36 PM PST
Do you feel like every year at Thanksgiving, you just can't control yourself when it comes to eating? Well, even the most disciplined have trouble. But you can do just a few simple things will save you from consuming a lot of calories.

By now you've already navigated the aisles, fought for the best turkey and are well on your way to your favorite Thanksgiving Day foods.

"Sweet potato pie," one grocery store shopper said.

"Turkey," another said.

They are all tempting, but they don't have to be diet busting.

"We don't need quantity, just the quality," said Ronda Elsenbrook, a registered dietitian with the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

Elsenbrook says on a day when splurging is the norm, having a healthy Thanksgiving is not about cutting out, just cutting back.

"If we think about just downsizing that splurge, we can eat anything we want, anything that's tasty to us but just smaller -- portion control," she said.

Think small dollops of casseroles, mini desserts and more greens. Elsenbrook also showed us a few healthy substitutes, like white meat turkey over dark meat.

"White meat has about half the calories as dark meat, especially if you pull the skin off," Elsenbrook said.

Reach for the veggies and low-calorie dip instead of baked or fried appetizers. And in place of that smothered sweet potato casserole, choose a baked sweet potato with a few sugar pecans or one melted marshmallow; that way, you'll still get the same flavor without all the calories, fat and guilt.

"You can still be happy, taste everything but not feel overstuffed," Elsenbrook said.

Because as much as we might be in denial, when it comes to the feast, less is always better.

"It's Thanksgiving, calories no limit," Elsenbrook said jokingly.

An average Thanksgiving meal can have as many as 4,500 calories. That's more than two day's worth for the average woman. But here are ways to cut that down to 1,400 calories and to even less -- 650 calories without feeling deprived:

Nutritional Facts for Thanksgiving Meal:

Traditional: 4 oz dark meat turkey with gravy
1/4 cup cranberry sauce
1/2 cup stuffing
1/2 cup sweet potato casserole
1/2 cup green bean casserole
1 roll with butter
slice of pecan pie

1,400 kcal, 62 grams fat (39% calories from fat)

Healthy option:

4 oz white meat turkey without skin
1/4 cup cranberry relish
1 cup sweet potato with tsp butter and sprinkle of sugared pecans
1 cup green beans
1 slice pumpkin pie

650 kcal, 17 grams fat (23% from fat)

Difference: Save 750 calories, 45 grams fat

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