Regardless where or with whom you plan on consuming that great annual feast known as Thanksgiving dinner, surely you would like to savor your meal and enjoy your company without busting your pants or blowing up any healthy diet you’ve just started. Well, there might be a way to have your turkey and eat it, too (along with all the fixings) without stuffing your body with a week’s worth of calories in two hours or less.
Thanksgiving Day arrives Thursday, giving millions of people free rein to be gluttonous for one day without drawing glares of disgust or criticisms from others more intent on counting your calories than counting their own blessings. It has been estimated, per theweek.com, that the average American consumes three times the daily recommended calories on turkey day, beginning a holiday-season binge that can pack on the pounds by the time New Year’s Day rolls around.
“I think people would be frowned upon if they were, quote, ‘dieting’ on Thanksgiving,” Nashville registered dietitian Jamie Pope says, quoted at abcnews.com. “It’s kind of a socially acceptable day to indulge.”
Take solace, though, eager eaters. There are ways to deal with the coveted Thanksgiving meal without putting yourself on a guilt trip and leaving you slumped in front of the TV watching football while patiently (?) waiting for enough space in your stomach to clear to make room for dessert.
It’s all a matter of having a plan, working in some food substitutes for the meal and maybe munching on a few healthy snacks prior so you’ll be less likely to be famished when you sit down to eat.
Counting the Calories
First, it helps to know what you will be eating and what kind of calories you will be looking at right before you start consuming them.
Following is a caloric breakdown, per theweek.com, that shows which dinner items will encompass however many calories. Calories are based on one typical serving for an adult. Keep in mind, the recommended daily intake on a “normal” day is 2,480 calories and 80 fat grams for men; 1,850 and 62, respectively, for women:
- Turkey (dark meat with skin), two 8-ounce slices – 424 calories, 17.8 fat grams
- Stuffing (1 cup) – 320 calories, 18 fat grams
- Green bean casserole (1 serving) – 161 calories, 9 fat grams
- Mashed potatoes, gravy (1 serving) – 443 calories, 25 fat grams
- Cranberry sauce (1 slice) – 86 calories, 0 fat grams
- Cornbread (1 piece) – 173 calories, 5 fat grams
- Sweet potatoes with marshmallows (1 heaping scoop) – 609 calories, 8.8 fat grams
- White wine (1 glass) – 122 calories, 0 fat grams
- Pecan pie, pumpkin pie (1 slice each) – 819 calories, 14 fat grams
TOTAL: 3,157 calories, 124 fat grams (more if you go back for seconds on anything)
Not Too Late to Plan to Eat Right
Even though your Thanksgiving dinner is probably less than 24 hours away, that’s still plenty of time to devise a plan to get the most out of your meal without wrecking you diet or leaving yourself with a major weight tussle. In no particular order, here are eight suggestions or strategies to try out or, if you insist, to discard if you are bound and determined to pig out to your heart’s delight (or stomach’s agony):
- Get some exercise – before you eat, not just after (such as the traditional post-turkey stroll around the neighborhood). Start the day with a moderate workout, such as a 30-minute brisk walk. You not only create a calorie deficit, you get your motor (metabolism) running.
- Eat a small meal before the actual Thanksgiving dinner, such as breakfast or a brunch, even a light lunch. Skipping a “pre-meal meal” thinking it gives you more room to pig out at the main event is not a good idea. It slows the metabolism and encourages overeating all the rest of the day, per livescience.com.
- Skip the alcohol. Figure on about 150 calories for each glass of beer or wine; it adds up.
- Stay hydrated. Sip water all day. It will help curb the hunger pangs; essentially, zero calories involved.
- Skip the seconds, to include getting by on one (small) slice of pie instead of the usual two.
- Consider skipping the pie altogether and go for some apple crisp instead, per coreperformance.com. When making it, go easy on the butter and skip the cream for a fresh-tasting dessert with fewer calories.
- Other great mealtime substitutes that cut calories without skimping on taste: collard greens or Brussels sprouts instead of green bean casserole; homemade cranberry sauce instead of store-bought; and sweet potatoes without the marshmallows.
- Joan Cheeseman of Richford, Vermont, offers the following Thanksgiving Day strategy: “Half-cup measure of each of the sides, a spoonful of cranberry sauce, lots of turkey, and no pies! Fresh green beans not the casserole, and eat half the cheese and cracker platter before dinner with a huge glass of merlot so you don’t care about cutting back at the table.”
- Katherine Faulman of Franklin, Tennessee, weighs in with this: “Use a salad plate instead of a regular dinner plate. Fill with salad, non-casserole vegetables and protein first. Then fill in with small scoops of the fattening stuff. No bread. Always go halvsies with someone with dessert. You eat less if you’re talking and sharing more.”