52 Healthy Eating Tips for Thanksgiving

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, but try to control the portion size.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, but try to control the portion size.
Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of delicious (and fat-filled) holiday foods. So how do you enjoy yourself without completely sabotaging your diet? Follow our diet and nutrition tips to cut calories without depriving yourself of a true Thanksgiving feast.



1. Get Fish-Friendly: By itself, fish is lower in calories than chicken or ham, and certain types of fish are rich in heart-healthy fats. Just remember to avoid the creamy sauces!

2. Pass Up Ham: Ham is one of the fattiest meats, with 25% of your recommended amount of artery-clogging saturated fat in just one serving.

3. Dark Meat is OK: Dark meat has slightly more calories than white meat, but it also has more vitamins and minerals. Cut calories by not eating the skin.

4. Skip the Skin: Whether you eat white or dark meat, be sure to go skinless. Just one ounce of skin contains 80 calories and 2 grams of fat!

5. Try a Nontraditional Pick: Pork roast often includes both the fatty and lean parts of the meat, but it's made with herbs and spices (not brown sugar and butter) and has little added fat.

6. Refrain from Red Meat: Eeek! Red meat is one of the fattiest proteins. Be sure to trim it before you dig in, and serve yourself portions that are approximately the size of your palm.

7. Sneaky Calorie Cutter: Swap dark meat for light meat and you save 30 calories.

8. Go Easy on Gravy: Roasted turkey is a smart bet for your holiday dinner. Just don't get crazy with the gravy – it’ll cost you about 20 calories per ounce.

9. Forgo Fried: Loading fried chicken on your plate won't give you much room for sides. One serving has close to 500 calories and half your daily intake of saturated fat.


10. Sinful Sides: With a deadly combo of cheese, sour cream, and butter, au gratin potatoes are a dish best eaten in moderation. Using low-fat cheese and cream helps, too.

11. Bypass Baked Beans: Beans are an amazing source of fiber and iron. Unfortunately, this casserole is full of brown sugar, molasses, and honey. Leave the bacon off your plate and save 42 calories.

12. Ignore Biscuits: Homemade biscuits often contain whole milk and butter, which give them their fluffy texture. They're dense in calories, so you're better off with cornbread.

13. Steamed = Slim: Steamed broccoli is a slim side. Just don't ruin it by slathering it with fat-filled cheese sauce.

14. Be Choosy with Coleslaw: This side dish varies from recipe to recipe. If you see it dripping with mayo, pass it up. Made with vinegar and herbs, it's a diet-friendly option.

15. Go Butter-Free: Cornbread, a true Thanksgiving staple, is hard to avoid. Eat it plain -- without the pat of butter -- and cut 30 calories.

16. Fresh is Best: The canned variety of cranberry sauce can be packed with sugars and additives, but homemade versions made with fresh cranberries can be a healthy topping. Either way, it won't wreck your diet.

17. Slim Down Creamed Spinach: By itself, spinach is one of the most nutritious veggies. Add in butter and cream, and you do more diet damage. If you're looking for a low-cal swap, try using reduced-fat cream cheese instead of whipping cream.

18. Banish the Bread Basket: Why waste the extra calories? Have one more spoonful of your holiday favorite instead of a plain dinner roll.

19. Go Green! Without the cream, butter, and cheese in green bean casserole, these veggies are an excellent choice. Add some flavor with garlic, lemon juice, or a sprinkle of Parmesan.

20. High-Cal Casserole Alert: The base of this casserole contains vitamin-packed green beans but smothers them with cheese, cream, and butter. Cut 50 calories by leaving off the fried onion topping.

21. Be Selective with Salads: Though it's not crazy in calories, congealed salald, a Jell-O-based dish, can contain added sugars and creams. Skip it and save room for dessert!

22. Take Control of Mac and Cheese: It's hard to avoid this gooey dish, but with several types of cheese, milk, and breadcrumbs, it's a complete diet fail. If you indulge, just take a tiny spoonful.

23. Boost Flavor Naturally: Mashed potatoes vary greatly from recipe to recipe. Cut down on calories by adding low-fat milk, herbs, and garlic, and cutting down on butter and cream.

24. Pass Up Pumpkin Bread: Though pumpkin is rich in vision-boosting vitamin A, pumpkin bread contains a ton of sugar and fat. You're better off with a side of sweet potatoes.