7 Simple Ways to Cut Calories From Thanksgiving Dinner

The average American packs away more than 4,500 calories during a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Here are seven ways to slash those numbers and keep your waistline intact.


Sadly, overeating on Thanksgiving has become as much of a tradition as the turkey and cranberry sauce, or the afternoon football game.

In fact, the average American consumes more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat during a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, according to the Calorie Control Council.

To put that in perspective, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that the average adult man consume 2,000 to 3,000 calories and the average adult woman consume 1,600 to 2,400 calories — in an entire day.

Are you destined to lose your weight-loss resolve this Thanksgiving, or will you be among the proud minority who manages to avoid a full-on food frenzy? With a little advanced planning and a few simple tweaks, you can cut hundreds of calories from your holiday meal.

Following are seven tips to help avoid Thanksgiving binge eating. Let’s talk turkey!

1. Eat before the feast

If you starve yourself before Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll be more likely to overindulge on the stuffing and sweet potato casserole.

Instead of avoiding all things food-related prior to the big meal, enjoy a bowl of fiber-rich oatmeal or some fruit and yogurt beforehand to help control your appetite.

2. Forget the fryer

Sure, deep-fried turkey is moist and flavorful. But it’s also considerably more fattening than its oven-roasted counterpart. According to Medical Daily:

When food is fried, the amount of fat it absorbs during cooking increases. The food absorbs even more fat when the temperature of the oil drops too low, it spends too much time in the fryer or when there is too much food stuffed into a single fryer.

This Thanksgiving, skip the fryer and look for healthier ways to infuse your bird with flavor, like brining.

3. Make simple swaps

Evaluate your time-honored Thanksgiving recipes for opportunities to trim fat and calories. Boston.com recommends:

Instead of making the same old green bean and mushroom soup casserole topped with those fat-laden packaged fried onion rings, consider stir-frying the fresh green beans with a little olive oil, garlic, and a smidge of salt and pepper for a healthier veggie side.

And if you’re bringing a side dish or dessert to the home of a friend or family member, choose a healthy option, such as green salad or fresh fruit, or prepare a slimmed down version of a traditional recipe.

Your dinner companions probably won’t even notice the difference.

4. Stick to the one-half rule

The USDA recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and veggies. The remainder of your calories should come from whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products.

This rule holds true for all meals — even Thanksgiving dinner. So, if you absolutely must load up your plate, start with the salad. Then opt for some skinless white-meat turkey.

5. Downsize your plate

Weight loss and maintenance is all about portion control. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to recognize that smaller plates hold less food than larger ones.

Additionally, smaller plates can actually trick your brain into believing you’ve consumed more food. According to WebMD.com:

You may have grown up being told to “clean your plate.” The problem is that dinner plates in homes — and restaurants — have gotten bigger. And so has the amount of food we put on them. If you clean your plate now, you’re probably overeating.

 6. Skip the booze

It’s only natural to want to enjoy a drink or two at Thanksgiving — after all, it’s a celebration.

But alcohol contains a lot of empty calories. If you must indulge, opt for a light beer over a regular one, or make your glass of wine a “spritzer” by adding equal parts club soda. And be sure to choose straight hard liquor over mixed drinks, which typically contain added sugars.

The best choice of all? Good old water, which can actually keep hunger at bay and aid in weight loss.

7. Dish out the leftovers

Thanksgiving is only one day. But it can easily turn into a week-long food binge if you’re left with a fridge full of tempting dishes.

Instead, send each guest home with a generous holiday doggie bag, or drop your leftovers off at your local soup kitchen. You’ll be saving yourself from holiday weight gain and helping those in need.

That’s two more things to be thankful for at the end of the day.

Do you have any tips for slashing your Thanksgiving calorie intake? Share them in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

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