Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner Substitutions & Tips

healthy-thanksgiving-swaps-tips Thanksgiving. A statutory holiday for belts. Dig out your stretchiest waistband and most flattering p.It's turkey time. Here's how to keep it together, mentally & physically.

Fear not the holiday.

There are plenty of silly recipes out there for low-calorie holiday meals. Let's face it. We only really give ourselves a free pass to eat to our heart's content a few times per year. And let me tell you, straight-up: overeating at Thanksgiving dinner will not make you gain weight. Overeating at Christmas dinner will not make you gain weight. Overeating at every meal from Thanksgiving to January 1st will make you gain weight. Do we see the difference?

You are not a vacuum cleaner.

Chances are, you've got more than 1 or 2 big family meals in front of you over the next few months. Be mindful of what you are eating, and realize you do not need to have EVERY treat that comes your way.

You are not a vaccuum cleaner. Choose the treats that you like best, and skip the ones that don't really do it for you.

It can be helpful to keep a food journal so you can keep tabs on yourself as you wade through the holiday months. While I don't recommend obsessive calorie counting, knowing approximately how much energy (calories) certain foods provide can help you understand what an appropriate portion might be, and which foods you can indulge in more with less effect on your bottom line. As in, your ass.

Don't weigh & measure your stuffing. That's sadder than Charlie Brown. But if you have a general idea that a serving of stuffing packs about 300 calories -- and only comprises perhaps 1/6 of your plate -- you might be more likely to ask yourself, "Am I really still hungry?" before you pile on a second helping.  

Now, for your ease, a sampling of holiday treats and their basic nutritional values.

Calories don't really mean much to you? Keep in mind, the average woman probably consumes roughly 1,800-2,400 calories per day without losing/gaining weight.

  • turkey (thigh with skin) - 493 calories
  • turkey stuffing (1 serving) - 265 calories
  • mashed potatoes (1 cup, with 1 tbsp butter) - 286 calories
  • mashed sweet potatoes (1 cup, with 1 tbsp butter) - 349 calories
  • winter squash (1 cup, baked, plain) - 80 calories
  • whipped cream (1 cup, after whipping) - 414 calories
  • pumpkin pie (1/8 pie, homemade) - 316 calories
  • turkey gravy (1/4 cup, homemade) - 120 calories
  • dinner roll (small, with 1 tbsp butter) - 225 calories
  • white wine (5 oz glass) - 119 calories
  • red wine (5 oz glass) - 125 calories
  • beer (1 can) - 153 calories

So, what to do... what to do? Well, you could just resign yourself to the fact that you are about to consume several thousand calories in one day and just not freak out about it. After all, holidays come but once per year and if you're following the 80/20 rule, you should enjoy your indulgences.

MacGyver your dinner.

So you've got a serious weight loss goal or maybe you're pregnant and at risk for gestational diabetes. Whatever the motivation, staying on track at all meals is just easier for some people. Not everyone succeeds in the grey area of "moderation."

If you want to keep the indulgence (and indigestion) in check, you can make a few quick substitutions.

Here are 10 tips & smart swaps to help you walk away from Thanksgiving dinner with your pants still buttoned up.

  • make a wine spritzer by adding equal parts white wine and soda water, garnished with lemon or lime.
  • make a wine-or-dessert deal with yourself & choose the before or after dinner treat that really calls to you.
  • if appetizers are offered, select a few bites that are high in protein so you're heading into dinner a little less hangry and more likely to turn down the things you don't really love but just associate with family dinner, like that weird creamy green bean thing your Aunt makes.
  • choose bread OR potatoes... I know... but, really? Do you need a side of white with your white?
  • stick with white meat from the bird and choose gravy instead of skin - not both! Who needs soggy, gravy-covered skin anyway?
  • get some green vegetables into that spread and add fill-you-up fibre with peas, green beans, broccoli or spinach salad
  • replace 1/3 to 1/2 of the mashed potatoes in your usual batch with cauliflower to slash calories dramatically
  • try plain yoghurt, chicken broth, low-fat milk or olive oil instead of the traditional butter and cream in your mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • if salad is served, put it right on your plate and not on a side plate so it takes some of the dinner plate "real estate" away from less healthful choices like stuffing
  • choose a scoop of ice cream if you must have a garnish with your pumpkin pie. It goes down more slowly than whipped cream and has less calories, plus the interesting sensation of a cold dessert is more satisfying & might make you less likely to go back for seconds.
  • switch to coffee as soon as dinner is over to limit overall alcohol calories and help quell that after-dinner sweet tooth (not to mention the after-dinner sneaking extra bites of stuffing tooth...)

Happy Holidays!