Health

Nutritionists reveal their favorite tips of how to cut calories from Thanksgiving dishes 

Thanksgiving is a holiday all about the four Fs: family, friends, football – and a feast.

We look forward to nothing more than digging into a turkey dinner complete with all the trimmings including mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans and pies.

But all those dishes – which can be loaded with sodium, fats and sugars – add up.

According the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes a little more than 3,000 calories on Turkey Day.

So how can you make sure to enjoy your meal without feeling bloated on Black Friday?

DailyMail.com spoke to five nutritionists who revealed their tips and tricks of how to prepare your favorite dishes in a healthy way.  

Five nutritionists offered their advice on how to cut down on calories and fat while still having a delicious Thanksgiving Day meal

HAVE LIGHT MEAT OR TURKEY BREAST REATHER THAN DARK MEAT  

When it comes to the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal, the nutritionists recommend opting for light meat or turkey breast.

‘When people are trying to save calories or fat, the way to go is the turkey breast,’ Lyssie Lakatos of the Nutrition Twins in New York, told DailyMail.com.

She explained that three ounces of turkey breast have 140 calories and 0.6 grams of fat while a turkey leg with the skin on is 190 calories and 10 grams of fat.

Additionally, lean turkey has protein to help rebuild muscles and contains good (HDL) cholesterol that helps beat bad (LDL) cholesterol.

However, it doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid the skin.

Lakatos says that three ounces of turkey breast with skin is 160 calories and six grams of fat.

‘So maybe you enjoy a little bit more of that and limit something else.’

Tammy Lakatos Shames, of the Nutrition Twins, also recommends for gravy either using just two tablespoons or opting for cranberries instead.

‘What we have our clients do is have cranberries added on top to make [the meat] moist and it’s only 43 calories compared to 150 calories for gravy,’ she told DailyMail.com

‘So you save a lot of calories and it’s delicious.’ 

Opt for light meat instead of dark meat for the turkey because it is leaner and full of protein

Opt for light meat instead of dark meat for the turkey because it is leaner and full of protein

USE CHICKEN STOCK OR VEGETABLE STOCK FOR YOUR MASHED POTATOES

On their own, potatoes are a healthy vegetable that are good sources of vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.

However, when turning potatoes into mashed potatoes made with butter, milk and/or heavy cream, most of the nutritional value is lost.

One cup of homemade mashed potatoes is 240 calories with nine grams of fat.

Lara Metz of Lara Metz Nutrition recommends cutting down on the calories and fat by replacing the butter and cream with chicken stock.

One serving of mashed potatoes made this way is 170 calories and eight grams of fat – but doesn’t sacrifice the dish’s creaminess.  

Alternatively, the Nutrition Twins recommend having a baked potato instead and topping it with lemon, pepper, a dash of salt, or nonfat Greek yogurt.  

Using chicken stock rather than butter or cream in mashed potatoes lowers calories while still maintaining a creamy texture

Using chicken stock rather than butter or cream in mashed potatoes lowers calories while still maintaining a creamy texture

AVOID USING BROWN SUGAR OR HONEY ON YOUR SWEET POTATOES – USE THE NATURAL FLAVOR FLAVOR

Sweet potatoes are a common Thanksgiving side dish, and often one of the most sugary options on the menu.

Popular sweet potato recipes often include covering them with sugar, syrup or even marshmallows. 

Beth Warren of Beth Warren Nutrition in New York City says that much of this is unneeded, though, because sweet potatoes are already naturally sweet – as the name would suggest.

‘If you’re adding marshmallows and butter and sugar on top of an inherently sweet food already…it becomes an issue,’ she said.

She instead recommends people make recipes that enhance the natural flavors of the potatoes.

‘You could try to add cinnamon, which is great for blood sugar, and will help manipulate the potato so that it feels like we’re having something sweeter,’ she said.

A little sprinkle of brown sugar would be fine as well as long as it is not overdone.

Warren also notes that sweet potatoes are inherently a healthy food, being packed with vitamin A. 

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet so they don't need much brown sugar or other sweeteners added to the dish

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet so they don’t need much brown sugar or other sweeteners added to the dish

HAVE ROASTED VEGETABLES INSTEAD OF A GREEN BEAN  CASSEROLE

Green beans are a vegetable filled with nutrients including calcium, folate and vitamin K.

However, in a casserole form with fried onions and cream of mushroom soup, the fat, sodium and cholesterol start to add up.

Instead, nutritionists recommend making the green beans plain or opting for a different vegetable.    

‘I like to have a clean vegetable at Thanksgiving,’ Metz said.

‘It’s a way to get boost of nutrition without making it part of a very heavy meal.’

She recommends cooking green beans with sautéed shallots or opting for completely dish such as roasted cauliflower or broccoli.

Lakatos Shames recommends a similar side dish, either roasted brussels spouts, roasted carrots and parsnips or roasted cauliflower.

‘They get really sweet and delicious and they’re full of nutrients,’ she said. 

Andrea Chernus of Chernus Nutrition in Florham Park, New Jersey agrees. 

‘If you’re the host, make sure there are vegetables available,’ she said. ‘You can use lightly butted butter carrots or asparagus.’

Sautéing green beans instead of making them into a casserole or having roasted vegetables instead cuts down on the amount of sodium and fat in the dish

Sautéing green beans instead of making them into a casserole or having roasted vegetables instead cuts down on the amount of sodium and fat in the dish

SUBSTITUTE ORANGE JUICE FOR SUGAR IN YOUR CRANBERRY SAUCE 

Loading up on cranberry sauce is the easiest way to accidentally eat too much sugar at Thanksgiving dinner. 

Canned sauces come packed with sugar, and homemade cranberry sauces liberally use it as well.

Limiting, or even replacing, the sugar in a cranberry sauce recipe can help limit its unhealthy impact.

Warren recommends replacing the sugar in cranberry sauce recipes with sprinkles of orange juice instead, which can still give the sauce some sweetness but in a more natural form, and using less sugar.

She also suggests maple syrup, agave syrup or artificial sweeteners as potential sugar replacements.

Cranberries are inherently healthy, she says, as they are an antioxidant and provide people with many necessary vitamins.

If made properly, the cranberry sauce can become one of the healthiest items on the dinner table. 

Using orange juice instead of sugar adds sweetness to the cranberry sauce but in a more natural form

Using orange juice instead of sugar adds sweetness to the cranberry sauce but in a more natural form

USE PLANT-BASED DAIRY TO CUT DOWN ON THE FAT IN YOUR MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE 

Another Thanksgiving staple, mac and cheese, can be a delivery vehicle for a high amount of fats.

The amount of dairy can also leave a person feeling tired and bloated after dinner.

DIETITIANS’ ANTI-OVER-EATING THANKSGIVING DAY GAME PLAN 

1. Don’t skip breakfast. You’ll be less likely to overeat during the big meal

2. Drink at least eight cups of water throughout the day so you don’t confuse hunger for thirst

3. Try sticking to one plate and not going back for seconds

4. Give away leftovers to guests or to a local food pantry

Warren recommends limiting the amount of dairy in mac and cheese by opting to use some non-dairy alternatives.

Plant-based, vegan cheese can replace standard cheese in the dish, and instead of using regular milk, a person can opt for almond or skim milk.

In order to add some creaminess to the meal, she recommends using almond- or soy-based sour cream, that have much less fat than their dairy alternative.

For those that do not want to use plant-based alternatives, there are some healthier dairy options available as well.

‘When it comes to adding dairy products, you’d be surprised how well you could manipulate cottage cheese and Greek yogurt to enhance that creamy feel [while] also adding more protein and cutting down the fat and saturated fat,’ Warren said.

She says that people watching their fat intake should make sure to get fat-free versions of the cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. 

EAT THE FILLING OF THE PIE OR USE GRAHAM CRACKERS FOR THE CRUST

After the filling meal comes one of the most popular Thanksgiving desserts: pumpkin pie, apple pie and pecan pie.  

Firstly, the Nutrition Twins recommend opting for pumpkin pie or apple pie if you have the option.

‘Pumpkin and apple pie are the way to go,’ Lakatos Shames said.

‘A slice of pecan pie has 500 calories and 27 grams of fat. One slice of the other two cuts those calories and fat in half.’ 

The majority of the calories don’t come from the filling, but from the crust, so there are two ways around this predicament.

Nutritionist recommend either eating just the filling of the pies or using a graham cracker crust to cut down on calories and fat

Nutritionist recommend either eating just the filling of the pies or using a graham cracker crust to cut down on calories and fat

One option is to just eat the filling. For example, a cup of apple pie filling is 186 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Another option is to make your pie with a graham cracker crust.

A traditional baked for a nine inch pie is about 935 calories and 41 grams of fat.

But a baked pie crust made of graham crackers only runs about 110 calories and five grams of fat, according to the USDA.

‘A graham cracker crust is amazing,’ said Lakatos.

‘Using Nabisco graham crackers and coconut oil is simple, you get nutrients and to stave off hunger and be satisfied.’ 

Another alternative is to make an apple cobbler instead of a pie, Chernus recommends, because it half the calories while still being delicious. 

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