Where Thanksgiving Calories Hide — and How to Burn Them Off

When you sit down to a traditional Thanksgiving meal, the cards will be stacked against your diet. Those favorite dishes are just so high in calories — hello, stuffing and sweet potato casserole! — and there are just so many of them, it can seem impossible not to splurge.

But with the right planning and a serving of willpower, you can have a healthy (or healthier) Thanksgiving.

How to Dish Up a Healthier Meal

“My advice is to do everything in moderation. Normally, people scoop up mounds of stuff on their plate, and that’s where it gets to be a problem. But if you can handle small portion sizes, then that’s fine,” said Sara Haas, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And just because you are going to indulge during that one meal of the day doesn’t mean that you have to blow the others. “Balance it with good meals at breakfast and lunch and do some exercise … think about how much better you’ll feel by the time you get to Thanksgiving dinner,” Haas said.

When it comes time to feast, there are steps you can take to keep from overeating, or at least to limit it. Haas recommends putting your fork down and taking a sip of water between bites to keep from shoveling food in your mouth. And wait at least 20 minutes before going back for seconds (or thirds) — it takes your body about that much time to know that it is full, she said.

Of course, if you are the one doing the cooking, there are lots of steps you can take to make your Thanksgiving dinner healthier. Using low-fat meats and dairy products is one easy way to lower the calorie load — and in foods such as stuffing and pies, you probably won’t even notice the difference.

Haas recommends sources such as Cooking Light and Eat Right, the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for beloved recipes made healthier, and for turning those mountains Thanksgiving leftovers into creative, and possibly healthier dishes.

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