The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. Headshot

Simple Ways To Have A Healthier Thanksgiving

Posted: Updated:

One of the most difficult times of the year for those trying to lose weight is the holiday season. While the holidays are a time to get together with family and friends, every party and gathering is also an excuse to take a holiday from your healthy heating habits. A cookie here, a chocolate there, washed down with some egg nog, and before you know it your pants are too tight.

The good news is that with a little foresight, those holiday pounds can be easily avoided while still enjoying the holiday season.

To start off, here are our tips for getting through Thanksgiving:

• Start the feast on a healthy -- and filling -- note. Instead of caloric dips and fatty appetizers, have low-calorie pre-dinner munchies available during food preparation and pre-dinner socializing.

• Place bowls of different-colored veggies without sauces on the table first, either at the start of the buffet or as the first dishes passed around the table. That will allow people to cover a good portion of their plates with healthier choices before serving calorie-denser foods like stuffing and mashed potatoes.

• Serve salad as a first course. Go heavy on greens, light on non-veggie add-ins like cheese.

• Make the vegetable side dishes the star of the show -- or at least the co-star. Try new, eye-appealing and interesting veggie recipes that pack plenty of flavor without extra calories.

• Avoid adding hidden calories during food preparation, such as adding butter to mashed white or sweet potatoes, or butter, oil or cheese to veggies.

• Sneak a few veggies into the dressing, such as diced onions, celery, leeks, shallots, carrots, even cauliflower.

• Make gravy a choice, not the default. Instead, the default serving should be turkey without gravy. If someone wants gravy, they should add it themselves.

• Be mindful of served portion sizes; someone can always ask for more.

• Get everyone up and moving before dessert. Always have plain fruit options along with traditional choices.

• Have plenty of water on the table and readily available. Make non-caloric beverages the default option.

Green Light It Up!

Holiday meals don't have to pack such a high-calorie punch. Simple makeover tips can lighten a meal and keep the taste just as good:

• Baked turkey -- choose a plain bird over a self-basting bird to lower the sodium content. To ensure a moist bird, bake un-stuffed, leave the skin on while roasting and remove from the oven when internal temperature reaches 170 degrees in the breast.

• Gravy -- use a gravy cup or refrigerate the pan juices (to harden the fat) and skim the fat off before making gravy. Save around 656 grams of fat per cup!

• Candied yams -- leave out the margarine and marshmallows. Sweeten with a little fruit juice, such as apple and flavor with cinnamon.

• Green bean casserole -- cook fresh green beans with chunks of potatoes instead of cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.

• Mashed potatoes -- use skim milk, roasted garlic and a little parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.

• Bread -- serve smaller pieces or omit it altogether.

• The plate method -- imagine your plate divided into thirds. Use the first third to fan out white meat turkey, no skin. Use the second third for salad and low-fat vegetables. Finally, the last third is for all the starches (sweet potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce).

Holiday Food Facts

A typical Thanksgiving Meal:

Roast turkey (dark and white meat) with skin (4 oz)
Candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows (1 cup)
Green bean casserole
Jellied cranberry sauce (½ cup)
Caesar salad
Mashed potatoes with milk and butter (1 cup)
Apple pie with vanilla ice-cream
Pecan Pie

TOTAL CALORIES: 2,796 calories -- or 7 red lights!

Green Light Thanksgiving Meal:

Roast turkey (light meat only), no skin (4oz) (2 GREENS)
Small Baked sweet potato (1 GREEN)
Sautéed green beans (1 GREEN)
Green Light cran-berries sauce (½ cup) (1/2 GREEN)
Mixed green salad with fat-free Italian Dressing (FREE)
Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and skim milk (1 cup) (2 GREENS)
Green Light pumpkin pie (1 GREEN)

TOTAL CALORIES: 750 calories -- or 2 red lights!

Recipes for Thanksgiving

Green Light Pumpkin Pie

This pumpkin pie saves 244 calories and 14 grams of fat per slice from the traditional version and it tastes identical!

Ingredients:
1 cup Fiber One
16 oz. can pumpkin
½ cup egg whites (about 4)
½ cup sugar OR 3 ½ teaspoons Splenda for Recipes
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves)
12 oz. can evaporated skim milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind the cookies in a food processor.

2. Lightly spray a glass pie pan with vegetable cooking spray. Pat the cookie crumbs into the pan evenly.

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour into the crust and bake until knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Store in the refrigerator.

4. Allow to cool and slice in 8 wedges. Optional: serve each wedge with fat free whipped cream.

Serves 8

Each slice (made with sugar):
128 calories, 0g fat, 05g saturated fat, 2mg cholesterol, 249mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 6.5g protein. (1 YELLOW)

Each slice (made with Splenda):
79 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 2mg cholesterol, 249mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 6.5g protein. (1 GREEN)

COMPARE WITH:

Traditional Pumpkin Pie: 557 calories, 33g fat
Traditional Pecan Pie: 680 calories, 35g fat

Green Light Cran-Berries Sauce

This easy-to-follow recipe is the BEST cranberry sauce you have ever tasted! You will be hooked! It is also great with roast meats, fish and as a dessert topping!

Most cranberry sauce recipes call for one cup of sugar -- 774 calories. Instead replace the sugar with Splenda and cut the calories in half.

Ingredients:

1 10-oz bag fresh cranberries
1 cup of water
1 cup Splenda
1 10 oz. bag frozen blueberries (defrosted) or mixed berries
1 small can crushed pineapple in natural juice (optional)

1. Place cranberries, water and Splenda in a medium-sized pot.

2. Bring ingredients to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

3. Remove pot from stove and add blueberries and pineapple.

4. Place in a container and chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Green Light Cran-Berries Sauce (made with Splenda):

48 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 0mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 1g protein. (1/2 GREEN)

COMPARE WITH:

Traditional Cranberry Sauce (1 cup):
418 calories, 1g protein, 107g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, <1g fat. (1 RED + 1 GREEN)