With a few strategic tweaks and tips, you can dramatically lighten up your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, without sacrificing flavor. Here are some of our favorite recipe suggestions and tips to make sure you leave the table feeling thankful that you don’t have to unbutton anything.
Don’t save up: Before you even get to the main meal, we recommend starting the day with a healthy balanced protein-rich breakfast, like an egg and tomato sandwich on a whole grain English muffin, or oatmeal with milk and fruit. Depending on what time the main meal is, you probably want to also have a light lunch or satisfying snack. Doing this will keep your appetite under control, and believe it or not, you’ll likely end up eating less calories overall that day if you do this.
Lighten up traditional dip: Instead of traditional sour cream or mayo based dips, substitute half of the sour cream or mayo with 0% plain Greek yogurt to save on calories and pack in protein (which will help you feel more satisfied). Here are a couple recipes we love from our friends at Chobani.
Start with soup: Starting a meal with soup can be a great low-calorie way to tame your appetite and pack in nutrition. This pumpkin soup is perfect for a Thanksgiving starter course.
Mix up your cheese platter: While cheese is a healthy choice that adds protein and calcium, too much cheese can contribute lots of calories and fat. Stick to 1 ounce of cheese (the size of about 4 dice) as a portion. Instead of just serving cheese and crackers, mix up the platter with fruit, like grapes and apple slices, and sliced veggies, so there are more flavors and textures to add variety.
Don’t swear off dark meat: Sure the white meat turkey breast is the leanest, and we’re all for it, but choosing dark meat adds less than 10 calories per ounce, and a richer flavor. The dark stuff has more nutrients than white and you’ll probably need little to no gravy to moisten up dark meat, so you may end up with a lighter option when you opt for dark meat like the thigh or drumstick.
Slim down your stuffing: Cook stuffing in a separate dish, instead of baking inside the bird, which adds calories via the fat drippings from the turkey. This simple step saves about 40 calories per serving! Up the fiber in your stuffing by using whole wheat bread instead of white, or substituting barley for the bread.
Mix up your mash: Instead of regular mashed potatoes, make them using half potatoes and half mashed cauliflower. You’ll barely notice the difference. Try this recipe from the Prevention RD!
Have some dessert: When it comes to dessert, our top recommendation is portion control. If you like variety, have a sliver of a couple types of pie, or share a piece with someone. Beyond simply paying attention to portions, certain choices are naturally lighter.
Pick the right pie: Pumpkin pie is typically the lightest of the pies. If you skip the whip, one small to medium slice will run you about 200 calories (vs. about 400 – 500 for a traditional pecan pie!). Opt for single crust pies over double crust to save more calories, or try something like this apple walnut galette that we developed for SELF magazine. It’s light and just as delicious as a traditional pie!