Thanksgiving is a day for family, friends, football – and a great big feast.
The average American will consume 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving, and that’s just for dinner, according to trade group Calorie Control Council.
When you add appetizers, drinks and dessert, the final calorie count can be as high as 4,500.
So how can you enjoy your meal without feeling like you’re going to pass out from a food coma at the end of the night?
DailyMail.com spoke to two nutritionists about how you can down on calories, sugar, sodium and fat – and prevent yourself from feeling bloated on Black Friday.
The average American will consume as much as 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. We spoke to two nutritionists about how you can slash as much as 1,000 calories from your meal
HAVE A MIX OF LIGHT AND DARK TURKEY MEAT
When it comes to turkey, the debate often comes down to white meat versus dark meat.
According to the Department of Agriculture, one ounce of boneless, skinless turkey breast (white meat) contains approximately 46 calories and one gram of fat.
Meanwhile, an ounce of boneless, skinless thigh (dark meat) contain 50 calories and two grams of fat.
Lara Metz, of Lara Metz Nutrition in New York City, told DailyMail.com that you can – and probably should – eat both.
‘You can do a combination meat because dark meat has some nutritional value,’ she said. ‘But try to incorporate white meat because it contains fewer calories and less fat.’
Beth Warren, of Beth Warren Nutrition in Brooklyn, New York, told DailyMail.com that four to six ounces will give you ‘a great source of lean protein for the day’.
Taking off the skin could also save you an extra 30 calories, our nutritionists added.
LOAD YOUR STUFFING WITH VEGETABLES
Many stuffings use white bread, which is low in nutritional value.
‘They strip off the outside,’ said Tammy Lakatos Shames of the Nutrition Twins in a recent interview with DailyMail.com. ‘The outer shell contains all the nutrients and fiber that prevents diabetes and heart disease.
‘So you’re eating pure carbohydrates and there’s no fiber to slow down digestion so it doesn’t fill you.’
About one cup of a classic stuffing can run you 355 calories and 17 grams of fat, according to the Calorie Control Council.
For a more nutritional stuffing, Warren recommends using whole grains (she’s opting for a whole wheat sourdough bread).
Metz also adds that stuffings are great for sneaking it tons of vegetables and lightening the calorie count.
‘Load it with vegetables, add your carrots and your celery and even spinach,’ she said. ‘Also mushrooms are a great addition because they’re bulky and add a lot of flavor.’
MIX GREEK YOGURT INTO YOUR MASHED POTATOES
Potatoes on their own are low in calories and high in vitamin C and potassium – but mashed potatoes can be less than healthy.
The US Department of Agriculture says one cup of homemade mashed potatoes prepared with whole milk or butter contains 240 calories, four grams of protein and nine grams of fat.
If they’re made with heavy cream, the calorie count can be as high as 400.
Warren says there are several options that can make mashed potatoes a lighter and healthier dish at your Thanksgiving table.
‘Use a light sour cream or a skim milk. You can even add a fat-free Greek yogurt,’ she said.
One trick that Metz uses after she’s mashed her potatoes is to mix it with mashed cauliflower, which is naturally high in antioxidants, fiber and B-vitamins.
‘That way you’re using less potato and it’s another way to get more vegetables in your meal,’ she said.
SWAP SUGAR FOR A DRIZZLE OF MAPLE SYRUP ON YOUR CANDIED POTATOES
Sweet potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper and maganese.
One sweet potato contains 112 calories, five grams of sugar and 0.1 grams of fat.
But one cup of homemade candied sweet potatoes contains 216 calories and 17 grams of sugar. So can what you do for a lighter version?
‘Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet,’ said Metz.
‘They don’t require cups of sugar. I recommend roasting them and tasting them to see if you need to add any sugar.’
Metz recommends, if you feel your sweet potatoes need some sweetness, adding justa drizzle of maple syrup.
SAUTE YOUR GREEN BEANS IN COCONUT OIL
Green beans, like many vegetables are rich in fiber, potassium, iron and zinc. But casseroles often use canned soup and fried onions, which are high in sodium and fat.
A one-cup serving contains 142 calories and eight grams of fat. [That’s a big calories investment] considering one cup of green beans contains 31 calories 0.1 grams of fat.
Metz recommends sautéing the green beans in coconut oil with some shallots.
‘It gives the green beans a nice flavor, you’re adding fiber to the meal and it adds some color to your plate,’ she said.
USE LESS SUGAR AND MORE CINNAMON WHEN SWEETENING YOUR CRANBERRY SAUCE
A majority of cranberry sauce recipes call for a great deal of sugar. A 1/4-cup serving contains 5.5 grams of sugar, and that’s before you even get to dessert.
An easy amendment is to use less sugar than the recipe uses for or an alternative sweetener.
‘You can citruses like orange to sweeten your cranberry sauce,’ said Metz.
‘Or you can add cinnamon. Cinnamon contains antioxidants and helps control your sugar levels.
BE AWARE OF YOUR WINE GLASS: DON’T REFILL UNTIL YOU’RE EMPTY AND STICK TO FIVE-OUNCE SERVINGS
Wine is overwhelmingly the drink that most Americans choose to accompany their Thanksgiving dinners.
According to a survey conducted by alcohol e-commerce site Drizly, around 63 percent will be drinking – with half of respondents saying they plan to serve red wine with dinner.
Red wine contains an antioxidant known as resveratrol. Found in grape skin, resveratrol has been found to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease as well as suppress inflammation and blood clots.
Whether you choose to drink red wine or white wine, Warren says portion control is key.
‘Stick to five ounces, people are often pouring more like seven to nine ounces in one glass,’ she said.
‘I’m a big proponent of drinking a glass of wine at dinner but it’s important to stop at one glass and sip it slowly.’
Metz also recommends making sure you have food in your stomach first before getting a glass of wine from your host.
‘You have three constant indulgences: wines, desserts and bread,’ Metz said. ‘On Thanksgiving, a good rule of thumb is to choose two of the three.’
EAT JUST THE FILLING OF THE PUMPKIN AND APPLE PIES
Although both are quintessential Thanksgiving desserts, both pumpkin and apple are bound to quickly add up to calories.
One slice of pumpkin pie (1/8 of a nine-inch pie), will run you about 323 calories, 13 grams of fat and 25 grams of sugar.
One slice of apple pie (1/8 of a nine-inch pie) adds up to about 296 calories 14 grams of fat and 20 grams of sugar.
Both Warren and Metz say that if you’re making your own pie, you can use less sugar than the recipe calls for.
‘Both apples and pumpkin are naturally sweet so you can embrace their flavor,’ said Warren.
‘Add agave or maple syrup. Or use a coconut sugar, which can eliminate the need for brown or white sugar.’
Metz said one tip to not indulging is to put your pie on a plate rather than standing up and eating.
‘Take a cup of herbal tea so you don’t eat too quickly. You can also fill your plate up with fresh fruit or even just eat the filling and leave the crust on your plate.
Making sure you don’t gorge can also relive some of the pressure of packing on a few pounds.
…AND HOW TO AVOID FEELING BLOATED ON FRIDAY
DONATE THE LEFTOVERS, DRINK WATER, AND GET BACK TO YOUR NORMAL DIET
A study published in September by Cornell University found that the weight of the average American increased 0.2 percent over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The researchers also determined that about half the weight gain seems to remain until the summer months or beyond.
‘Enjoy the day but the second it’s over, your mind should switch back to your eating habits from before,’ Warren said.
‘Start the day off with breakfast and drink a lot of water to flush your system.’
Metz suggests donate leftovers to a food pantry or give them away to guests so you don’t indulge for the whole week – and also recommends drinking water.
‘Drink lots of water to stay hydrated after eating all that salty food,’ she said.
‘We often confuse thirst with hunger and then end up overeating. It will also help your skin stay hydrated and get rid of toxins.’