By Kathy Cunningham

When it comes to calorie control around Thanksgiving, small changes can save you calories without losing taste.

With all the great Thanksgiving dishes to taste, you can easily eat far more calories on this one meal than you would in a typical day. In fact, a typical Thanksgiving meal can mean consuming 1,200-1,500 calories. But with a few simple steps toward mindful eating, you can enjoy the holiday without feeling deprived or guilty.

Start your day with a light breakfast (under 300 calories), such as half a bagel with nut butter and half a banana sliced, or try this simple breakfast taco. Both of these breakfast items contain whole grains and protein. As you continue your day, drinking water or simple teas without added sugar can keep you hydrated, and curb hunger until you are ready to join family and friends for the holiday meal.

If you’re preparing the meal or bringing a dish, try a few simple substitutions, which can make some of your Thanksgiving favorites lighter without losing the classic flavors everyone loves. Check out Healthy Turkey Dinner Makeover for ideas on reducing the fat in gravy, stuffing, and desserts.

Additionally, using low-fat milk and small amount of healthy olive oil drizzled on top will give your mashed potatoes the same creamy texture, but save you at least 50 calories per serving. This may seem small but trying several of the substitutions can reduce additional calories which can add to preventing that heavy overstuffed feeling after the meal.

When you sit down to eat, control the portions by using the recommendations from the USDA MyPlate and the Harvard School of Public Health’s My Healthy Eating Plate. (The difference between the two is that Harvard’s plate makes specific recommendations for food choices within the categories such as select whole grains over refined grains, and the protein section includes lean meats and fish. Healthy oils and water are also highlighted.)

So as you are plating your Thanksgiving meal, select more of the fall season vegetables – Brussels sprouts, dark green vegetables, squashes, and whole cranberries to name a few – as well as whole grains or smaller portions of grains or rice.

And of course we cannot forget the turkey, which is a leaner meat, but just keep the portion to three ounces. A good guide for this is the palm of your hand.

Remember keep it simple: select small changes which are easier and more sustainable to move toward a healthier you.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Kathy Cunningham is a registered dietitian at the Boston Public Health Commission.

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