How to Make Healthy Choices at Thanksgiving

Though it might seem like Thanksgiving was made to destroy your healthy eating habits, it doesn't have to be that way. Read on to see how you can have a healthier Thanksgiving without changing a single recipe.

Eat a good breakfast.

Some think they can control the number of calories they consume on Thanksgiving Day by skipping breakfast. While that might sound like a good idea, skipping breakfast will only make you very hungry by the afternoon, which will increase the likelihood of you going back for seconds—or thirds—at dinnertime.

Skip appetizers, or snack healthfully.

If dinner is in the afternoon, consider skipping appetizers and waiting for the main course. If dinner isn't until later, snack on raw vegetables and fruit. The fiber in these will fill you up with fewer calories.

Make a dinner and dessert plan.

Make a plan to fill up half your plate with skinless, white turkey meat and a simply prepared, non-starchy vegetable dish. Then, control your portions of everything else. Using a smaller-sized plate can also help with portion control. 

One serving of turkey is about the size of your palm or a deck of cards. It's packed with protein, which will help you stay full the rest of the day. A green salad is the best non-starchy vegetable choice, but steamed or roasted asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower is good, too. Use salad dressings sparingly, and don't add extra butter, oil or salt to your meal.


For the rest of your plate, limit yourself to around two tablespoons each of the traditional Thanksgiving foods you look forward to all year. Skip any foods that you can get any time of year. If you have room left on your plate, fill it with more veggies or turkey.

If you're given more than one dessert option, just pick one, and eat only a small portion.

Watch what you drink.

Calories from alcohol and sweet beverages like soft drinks and sweet teas can add up quickly. Save your calories for the food and stick to drinking water or sugar-free sparkling water.

If you plan to drink alcohol on Thanksgiving Day, keep these facts in mind:

  • One serving of beer is 12 ounces and contains 153 calories.
  • One serving of red or white wine is five ounces and contains about 123 calories.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than two alcoholic drinks per day.