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Eat This, Not That: Healthy Thanksgiving Food Swaps

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Photo Credit: iStock

Thanksgiving is always filled with tempting, delicious, fattening food that can be challenging to resist if you're on a diet. Most nutritionists would tell you that Thanksgiving is just another day and that there is no need to indulge or overeat, but that doesn't mean you still can't enjoy your meal. Instead of opting out of eating your thanksgiving favorites and quietly munching on a small salad instead, try to find healthy substitutes for classic dishes.

Here are some suggestions for food swaps you can make on Thanksgiving day. You're mouth will water over these delicious substitutes and you'll end the holiday guilt free. Accomplishing your weight loss and health goals means understanding how to balance your meals and enjoy your favorite holiday foods in moderation.

  • Instead of white potatoes, try yams with the skin on. 
  • Instead of mashed potatoes, try half white potatoes and half pureed cauliflower. 
  • Instead of candied sweet potatoes, try roasted butternut squash. 
  • Instead of canned cranberry sauce, try cranberry chutney. 
  • Instead of pecan pie, try pumpkin pie. 
  • Instead of cheese and cracker appetizers, try cut up veggies, hummus and roasted red pepper dip. 
  • Instead of roasted nuts and trail mix, try raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and pecans. 
  • Instead of beer, try dry red or white wine. 
  • Instead of regular stuffing, try whole grain stuffing. 
  • Instead of butter oil for basting, try low sodium vegetable oil mixed with white wine. 
  • Instead of cream of mushrooms or celery soups for caseroles, try lowfat plain yogurt with sauteed celery or mushrooms. 
  • Instead of green bean caserole, try sauteed green beans. 
  • Instead of apple pie, try apple crumble. 


For healthy Thanksgiving recipes and more, read and download the full Thanksgiving Survival Guide for free. 

Emily Johnson is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor and the founder and owner of Portland Fit Body Bootcamp. She was among the first MovNat Certified Trainers in the country and has also obtained her Level 1 Training for Warriors Certification. She’s trained with several industry experts and believes in continually growing her knowledge base so that she can better serve her clients. Emily's goal is to help her clients reclaim the natural health that is their birthright by teaching them to eat, move, and live in a way that will inspire them to be their best.


Related Slideshow: 10 Tips For A Healthy Thanksgiving Day

Here are 10 tips and tricks to keep your diet and exercise goals in tact on the biggest food holiday of the year. 

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Do NOT Skip Meals

Limit your intake of calories leading up to the big day. Eat breakfast and a protein-packed lunch before the big feast. If you starve yourself during the day, you could wind up SO hungry that by the time you sit down at the dinner table you eat WAY too much food. 

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Lean Meat

Go for lean, white meat turkey to get the most bank for your calorie-buck. Dark meat has about 15 % more calories and 30-40% more fat than light meat. If you prefer the dark meat, then at least take off the skin since that is where most of the fat (added calories) is. 

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Protein First

Start with the protein (animal or vegetarian). Start with your protein choice and then work on the vegetables. Leave the starchy carbs until the end. The protein will help slow the brake down of the starchy carbs. All that chewing will help you to feel full before you get to the starch. 

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Pause and take some breaths. After you finish each dish on your plate put your fork town. Take a couple of slow deep breaths. Enjoy what you've previously eaten before starting on the next dish. The deep breaths don't have to be obvious. Taking pauses and some deep breaths will also help aid digestion.

Photo Credit: shawnzrossi via Compfight cc

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Choose calorie free beverages. If you are going to be having alcoholic beverages then everything else you drink should be calorie free. Skip the pop, coffees and juices. Drink lots of water to avoid the dehydration that comes along with drinking too much. 

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Side Dish

Ask if you can make a side dish - make it an easy guilt free dish so you will have at least one thing to splurge on. Veggie dishes don't have to be boring.

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Burn calories! The more calories you burn with activity, the more food you can consume without feeling terrible about it. Do not skip the exercise leading up to the feast or on the day of. Make time to get to exercise and raise your heart rate. Your metabolism will thank you for it.

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Your Outfit

Wear form fitting clothing and you will be less likely to overeat. No sweat pants or stretchy pants. No one wants to see you with your pants unbuttoned after the meal. 

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Your Plate

Use a salad plate instead of a regular dinner plate. If your plate is smaller you will not have as much room on it and won't overload it with too much of the stuff you shouldn't have a lot of. Also, this helps trick your eye; no one likes to see half their plate empty.

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Keep your goal in mind! Although you may only overindulge a couple times over the holidays- a little plus a little plus a little adds up to a whole lot. Remind yourself why you are choosing to lose weight and keep that goal in the forefront of your mind. 

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Bonus Tip!

Have a hard boiled egg or 10  nuts about 45 minutes prior to the main meal. Having approximately 70 - 100 calories will help you to minimize your level of hunger so you can better control your portion sizes. 


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