A Healthier Thanksgiving Meal

Nov 20, 2013

It’s Wellness Wednesday, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Over the next couple of weeks, many people will enjoy several Thanksgiving feasts with family and friends. I’m personally going to three different Thanksgiving dinners between now and next Sunday. And while the food is delicious, one can easily eat hundreds of extra calories. After several meals—and yummy leftovers—these calories can add up around your waistline.

So, while I certainly don’t expect you to deprive yourselves, here are some tips from the American Heart Association’s Holiday Healthy Eating Guide to help you get the most out of your Thanksgiving meal, without too many extra calories (or pounds).


  • Limit your sodium. Breads, poultry and canned soups often pack a lot of salt. So when shopping for ingredients, choose low-sodium options

  • Use herbs and spices like rosemary and cloves to flavor dishes instead of salt


  • Reach for lighter pieces of meat that have fewer calories and less fat

  • Keep portions in check. One serving of meat is three ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards

  • Limit gravy to a tablespoon


  • It’s meant to be a complement to your meal, not an entrée. Aim for a quarter cup or about half a scoop
  • If the dressing is filled with fatty meats like sausage and pork, looks buttery or greasy and is made with white bread or sweet rolls, it may be best to pass. Better options would be dressings that have whole grain or corn bread, lean meat (or no meat), nuts and lots of veggies and fruits


  • Know what’s in it. Limit yourself to a small spoonful of casserole and fill the rest of plate with lean protein and veggies


  • Just sample a selection or two rather than having full servings. Find a family member who will stick to the sampling rule with you


  • To reduce the amount of calorie-laden drinks you consume, drink a glass of water between each beverage, whether it’s a cocktail, eggnog or apple cider

  • Eggnog: Fill your glass with half parts of low-fat or skim milk and one part eggnog. You’ll still get the flavor without all the calories

  • Hot chocolate: Make hot chocolate with low-fat or skim milk and without whipped cream or marshmallows

If you get a chance, take a stroll around the neighborhood after your meal. Or, play some football in the backyard. You’ll burn off a few extra calories!

Follow these tips to have a happy and healthy Holiday season! Check out the American Heart Association’s Healthy Holiday Eating Guide for other great tips.