4 Ways to Cut Calories on Thanksgiving

Studies show Americans gain between 5 to 10 pounds during the fall through the winter food-fest holidays.  It’s a yearly cycle that brings us temporary enjoyment and then despair as we begin to feel our pant waists become tighter along with unsightly, muffin top bulge.  Many of us are unclear about how to prepare healthy, low calorie, low-fat meals without sacrificing taste and flavor. 

I’ve consulted with my friend Registered Dietitian, Robyn Goldberg, R.D. to learn about some healthy holiday meal makeover tips and recipes that are quick and easy.  These Calorie and cost cutting tips and recipes will make you the star of your holiday gathering and have all your girlfriends asking for your healthy holiday meal makeover secrets!   
  1. Make creamy sauces and dips “skinny” by using nonfat dairy products or using extra firm, low-fat tofu.  Tofu has a consistency that is easily implemented in desserts, puddings, whipped toppings, frostings, dressings, and creamed sauces.  Soymilk and rice milk may also be used in place of full fat or reduced fat dairy products.  De-fatting the turkey and stuffing are key healthy steps for serving lean poultry.  While the bird is resting after cooking, put the pan drippings in the freezer for 20 minutes.  The fat will congeal on the top for easy removal.  Bake the stuffing in a casserole dish instead of in the turkey where it absorbs animal fat.  Baste the turkey with low sodium broth instead of fatty drippings.
  2. Roast vegetables instead of frying them. Roasting veggies helps to enhance and intensify their flavor because it concentrates the natural sugars.  Cut the veggies into wedges or strips then, season with fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and/or oregano and brush lightly with good quality extra virgin olive oil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until fork tender.  Using canola oil instead of margarine or extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing are healthy alternatives for butter or hydrogenated, trans-fat bottled dressings and marinades.  
  3. When you are cooking, avoid frequently tasting the food.  Munching during cooking will add calories and inches to your waistline.  A great idea to cut calories during cooking is to serve crudities of fresh veggies for you during the cooking day (then, later to your guests).  This will help fill you and your guests up—not out.  Other great low Calorie, low-fat appetizer ideas include low fat hummus with baked pita triangles or a reduced fat cracker with your favorite low-fat spread.  Try making fun and colorful fruit or veggie kabobs with your favorite seasonal fruits and veggies, which will be taste best are they are freshest and most budget friendly as they are in season.  Pick deeply colored fruit and vegetables, because they are highest in vitamins, minerals, and cancer fighting nutrients.
  4. Make a health dessert. Dessert is always a hot topic over the holidays.  Pies are commonly seen at various events.  I recommend my healthy and delicious Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust that is only 125 Calories per slice or substitute a fresh fruit cobbler to satisfy to your sweet tooth without sacrificing taste. 


Originally published in 2008