Thanksgiving: Skim calories, savor traditional flavors
November 27th, 2013
01:15 AM ET
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upwave is Turner Broadcasting's new lifestyle brand designed to entertain the health into you! Visit for more information and follow upwave on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram (@upwave). Keri Glassman MS, RD, CDN is a nationally recognized nutrition expert and published author.

Many people can relate to the nostalgia of Thanksgiving. There is something so wonderful and comforting about having the same meal, in the same home, at the same table, off of the same plates, year after year. If you are a die-hard sentimentalist, it is really challenging to have even the smallest disruption to the celebration.

If, on the other hand, you are ready to make your Thanksgiving a little more contemporary and a little more modern, I have recommendations to honor your grandmother’s Thanksgiving, but with a healthy twist.

Keep the meal, keep the home, keep the plates, keep the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football games and family gathering, but make some delicious shifts and you’ll hardly miss a thing.

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Let’s talk turkey
You really don’t have to change how you roast your bird very much. Replace the butter with a combination of chicken or vegetable broth and olive oil and you’ll cut down on the saturated fat. Remove the skin and choose white meat over the thigh or wing and you’ll save over 150 calories right there.

If you can avoid the gravy and go for a tablespoon of jus you’ll continue to cut the fat and calories by one third. For those of you who like the numbers: 6 ounces of dark meat turkey with skin is 354 calories, while 6 ounces of white turkey breast meat is 176 calories.

Clean the greens
Green bean casserole is a traditional dish that could really use a facelift. There is usually more sauce and crispy topping than green beans, and a serving typically has as many calories as a dessert. Swap the green bean casserole for some steamed or roasted green beans, topped with a little squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of vinegar and a tiny sprinkle of coarse sea salt and you’ll bring the calorie count from a whopping 240 to a mere 34.

I’ll remind you that you should load up on the vegetables. For munching, you should choose the crudités over the cheese and crackers before the meal. If the meal is not going to be for a while, have one small serving of cheese or nuts to curb the hunger, but be deliberate and exercise control with portioning.

Eat the salad, roasted root veggies and greens, remembering that half of your plate should be vegetables. Or, as I like to say, give those veggies the most real estate.

Vegetables fill you up and have the most nutrition. You won’t kick yourself for having an extra serving of Brussels sprouts.

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Making nice with starchy vegetables
It isn’t often that you get a simple baked sweet or white potato on your Thanksgiving buffet, but if you are hosting, or if you find them at your table, choose a baked potato over the sweet potato casserole (which averages 480 calories in a one cup serving).

If you have to choose between sweet potato casserole or mashed potatoes, go for the mashed; 236 calories in a cup is less than half of what you’ll find under the marshmallow topping. Your baked sweet potato averages 103 calories, and even with a spoonful of gravy or a little pat of butter this choice will still be under 150 calories.

Stuffing, cornbread, biscuits galore
You know yourself best. Is dressing what really makes Thanksgiving for you? Do you dream about grandma’s sausage stuffing when it is the 4th of July? If this is where you do plan to indulge (and you should look forward to an indulgence today), keep your sausage stuffing down to 1/2 cup because at 278 calories, you aren’t getting much in the way of vitamins, minerals or fiber. If you drop the sausage out of it, you save about 100 calories, so that could be one way of having your cake and eating it too. Try substituting the sausage in the recipe with mushrooms.

If you are a cornbread lover, one piece typically has 173 calories. That's not so very different from a buttermilk biscuit, which averages 150 calories.

I recommend choosing only one of the carb-delicious choices that are in front of you. Do not go back for seconds and make each bite last. Even if the meal is not completely modern, your approach will be, and that counts big-time.

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Sweet endings
Yes, it is better to have the pecan pie, with a scoop of ice cream at 780 calories, than to want it, not go for it, and eat every other dessert on the table. A slice of pumpkin pie (1/8 of a 9 inch pie) with a tablespoon of whipped cream is 348 calories. Add a piece of apple pie the same size as the pumpkin pie and you’re running another 411 calories.

When it comes to dessert, choose the one that looks like it has the most fruit, the least crust and have one satisfying piece. For example, go for the apple crisp at 227 calories, instead of the apple pie. Remember to say yes to the host and have a cup of tea with dessert. It will help you to slow down, be in the moment and savor your crumbs.

Liquid calories
If you are used to always having a full glass of wine in front of you, and drinking goes hand in hand with celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, try to reframe your approach. A 5 ounce glass of wine is 125 calories.

Have one with your meal, or before your meal and stick to sparkling water the rest of the day. If you usually have three glasses of wine, and instead only have one, you will save 250 calories. Well worth it, no?

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Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you are able to satisfy your sentimental and modern selves with a delicious and slimmed down version of the holiday. Cheers!

This article was originally published on

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Thinking things through

    Sorry, for the turkey, I'm eating the part of the turkey that tastes good: the dark meat. I'll make up for it by eating lots and lots of veggies and bypassing most of the desserts, or any dish with (feh!) marshmallows in it.

    November 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
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