Thanksgiving may be over but it is my favorite holiday. I love the fall colors, the warm oven, the amazing smells coming from the kitchen, and the chance to give thanks for abundance. Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating — and it's also a time for overeating. The average American eats 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat during this one meal. But if you're watching your waistline, you can enjoy a delicious, traditional meal on Thanksgiving and Christmas while still managing to avoid the worst caloric offenders.
Yams and sweet potatoes eaten alone aren't bad for you – they're packed with vitamins and fiber. But when we prepare them in the traditional "candied" fashion, they end up loaded with white sugar, brown sugar, butter and/or marshmellows. You can cut the fat and calories by substituting the butter with half-and-half, or better yet, enjoy the natural flavor of the starchy food without any of the "candied" additions.
Americans have convinced themselves that their turkey meal is too dry without gravy – a terrible price to pay considering that gravy is just all salt and fat and has no nutritional value. If you must put gravy on your Thankgiving table, choose canned gravy. Canned gravy tends to be lighter and healthier homemade gravy, and contains as little as 25 calories per quarter-cup serving. By contrast, classic homemade gravy made from turkey-pan drippings might contain a whopping 200+ calories per serving. Remember, though, even canned gravy is all salt, sugar and preservatives.
Salt and pepper
4) Dinner rolls
With so many delicious, uniquely Thanksgiving foods to eat on Turkey Day, why load up on dinner rolls? Not only does white bread contain little nutritional value, but it also typically goes with butter. And if you're thinking about an even unhealthier option like fluffy, buttery Crescent rolls, you're adding more fat and calories.
Something more uniquely Thanksgiving
5) Cranberry sauce
Cranberries are loaded with important vitamins and fiber, but cranberry sauce – especially out of a can – can more than double your sugar intake. Pop question: Which is more calorically dense – a quarter cup of canned cranberry sauce, or a quarter cup of canned gravy? Surprise! The cranberry sauce has a staggering 110 calories, vs. only about 25 calories for the gravy.
Homemade cranberry sauce that's light on sugar
Next Thanksgiving and this Christmas, do your body a favor and choose the lighter holiday fare. Eating white meat with no skin, baked sweet potatoes, canned gravy, and homemade cranberry sauce, while avoiding the bread, will cut your calorie intake by the hundreds.
Dr. Amy Osmond Cook received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in Communication. She is Dir. of Provider Relations at North American Health Care and taught writing, communication, and marketing classes at ASU, BYU, and Univ of Utah.