52 Healthy Eating Tips for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner
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.


More Tips

25. Beware of Salt: Sauerkraut is low in calories but packed with sodium. Keep your portion small to avoid a bloated belly.

26. Stockpile Brussels Sprouts: Sprouts are nutritional powerhouses, packed with vitamins K and C. With a little olive oil and herbs, they make a healthy side.


27. Portion Out Sweet Potatoes: Though sweet potato casserole can be loaded up with sugar, sweet potatoes are naturally rich in fiber, which may keep you full longer. Keep your serving to a 1/2 cup.

28. Seek Out Stewed Tomatoes: They are low in calories and rich in cancer-fighting vitamin C.

29. Stuff the Stuffing: Piled with croutons and loaded with sodium-filled broth, this dish is a serious diet pitfall. Lighten it up by using turkey sausage, packing it with onions and mushrooms for flavor, and adding low-sodium broth.


30. Try Plain Pie: Skip the a la mode pie and save 250 calories.

31. Pare Down Banana Pudding: Made with low-cal dairy products, this dessert can be less than 300 calories. Using reduced-fat vanilla wafers can also slim it down.

32. Cut Calories in the Crust: Keep blueberry pie low-cal by cutting down on butter in the crust and flavoring the berries with vanilla extract, not sugar.

33. Makeover Mincemeat Pie: Nuts and dried fruit can make for a calorie-packed end to your meal, but using these ingredients means you're cutting down on fat-filled chocolate and butter.

34. Go Half and Half: Pecan pie is nowhere close to being diet-friendly, but it's impossible to pass up, so take half a slice of this and half a slice of pumpkin pie to minimize your diet indiscretions.

35. Pumpkin Is Perfect: Canned pumpkin makes a guilt-free filling, even if you add in brown sugar and heavy cream. Enjoy this without busting your buttons.

36. Go Without Whipped Cream: Adding the whipped cream tacks on another 80 calories. But even with the added topping, pumpkin pie is still slimmer than most of the other desserts.

37. Stick with Sweet Potato Pie: Like pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie uses a veggie as a base to eliminate calories. Passing up any meringue topping will save you 100 calories.


38. Go for the Bubbles: Aren't you fancy? Stick to one glass of sparkling wine to stay in the calorie safe zone.

39. Make a Cuppa: Plain coffee is basically guilt-free. But adding in cream and sugar tacks on extra calories, so keep it black.

40. Lighten Your Load: If you're having one beer, a full-calorie boozy beverage won't widen your waistline. If you plan on having several, alternate between light beer and regular beer to minimize empty calories.

41. Avoid a Beer Belly: Choosing light beer over regular saves you an additional 50 calories.

42. Put the Kettle On: As long as you don't add in extra sugar, tea is a perfect pick. If you choose green tea, you may even give your metabolism a boost.

43. Zero-Calorie Flavor: Tea is super low in calories and has a nice flavor. Spike it with lemon or lime juice -- not sugar -- for a burst of citrus.

44. Don’t Milk It: With all the butter and cheese you're getting on your plate, it may be better to stick to water.

45. Red Is All Right: You may have stained teeth, but one glass of red wine won't hurt your diet (and it may help your heart).

46. Curtail Your Cocktails: Mixed with an array of fruit juices, a rum cocktail has more calories than a piece of pumpkin pie. Drink with caution!

47. Skip the Sangria: Loaded with fruit (and added sugar), this drink is sweet to sip, but not so great on your waistline. A plain glass of wine is a skinnier sip.

48. Can It: One can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. Wouldn't you rather just have dessert?

49. Feel Free to Go Fizzy: Sparkling water looks classy in a glass, and it's 100% guilt-free.

50. Avoid Apple Cider: This drink is just like glorified apple juice -- all sugar, no substance. Sip on a small serving.

51. Water is Where It’s At: Zero calories and you may even stave off hunger while you're sipping!

52. Welcome White Wine: One glass of wine won't break the calorie bank, and white wine won't ruin a table cloth in case you spill. Just be sure not to polish off the bottle.