Thanksgiving is a holiday based around gathering for large meals with plenty of dishes. Families often make the same recipes year after year, creating happy memories around their traditions. But a lot of traditional Thanksgiving Day meals are full of rich ingredients–high in calories and fat or sugar. Getting a handle on the caloric content of Thanksgiving Day dishes can prepare you to choose your foods wisely, opt for smaller portions of your “must haves,” and still have a great holiday.
It’s easy to lose track of our snacking when we are having a good time with family and friends. Traditional holiday appetizers can add up quickly calorie wise, so it’s important to stay mindful. Classic spinach dip recipes are full of mayo and contain as many as 600 calories per serving! Deviled eggs, another favorite at Thanksgiving, contain 80 calories and 5 grams of fat per half egg. There are ways to lighten up these dishes by swapping out a few ingredients. A healthy version of a spinach dip, which uses greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, comes out at 160 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving.
Cheese and crackers is another common appetizer as it is easy to prepare. But every ounce of cheese has on an average 100 calories (roughly 4 dice sized cubes are an ounce of cheese) and a serving of 4-5 crackers has roughly 80. Pay attention to how much snacking you are doing. If hosting or bringing a dish, opt for a healthier variation. Look for the fruits and veggies on the table and reach for those to satisfy the pre-meal munchies over these more calorie-laden choices.
Turkey is the mainstay of any Thanksgiving meal. Turkey, known as a healthy, lean meat option, is not always so at Thanksgiving. Many roasted turkey recipes call for as much as a stick of butter to help get that golden crisp skin on the outside and to enhance flavors. These recipes can bring a serving of turkey to 350 calories and 17 grams of fat. If making your own bird, there are other ways to cook the turkey where the calories per serving are only 155. If not the chef, make sure to remove the skin and watch your portion size.
Other main course options at the holidays can be a glazed baked ham or a beef pot roast. A serving of ham will contain 290 calories and 27 grams of sugar, while the pot roast will run more like 500 calories per serving with a whopping 39 grams of fat.
If it contains a vegetable does it mean it’s healthy? Not necessarily. Green bean casseroles and sweet potato casseroles may contain normally good for you veggies, but they are mixed in with butter and other high calorie ingredients. A typical green bean casserole comes in at 227 calories per serving with 13 grams of fat, while a sweet potato casserole (typically made with cream, nuts and lots of sugar) has 390 calories per serving and 19 grams of fat. Both of these dishes are often holiday favorites, so enjoy, but keep the serving size small.
Another Thanksgiving tradition for many tables is roasted brussel sprouts. This dish typically is about 70 calories per serving and a great healthy option. Fill half your plate with veggies that are roasted, steamed, or fresh to help stick to your healthy diet.
Desserts can be the most tempting part of any Thanksgiving Day Meal and often the highest in calories per serving. A traditional pumpkin pie recipe can have as much as 280 calories per serving and 13 grams of fat. And that’s before the whipped cream! (Whipped cream, a favorite topping for pie, can add as much as 200 calories to your dessert!) If you are hosting or bringing the dessert, consider an alternative healthy pumpkin pie recipe.
Pecan pie, while oh so delicious, contains 350 calories per serving, 22 grams of fat, and 27 grams of sugar. Apple pie is typically the best of the bunch. Still, an average slice of apple pie has 230 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 27 grams of sugar.
To enjoy dessert on Thanksgiving Day, skip the whipped cream and opt for a smaller piece of pie.