The average Thanksgiving dinner has more than 25-hundred calories -- more than a full day's worth.
But you can cut that down dramatically if you make the right choices, points out registered dietician Kerri Glassman, who served up tips galore, on The Early Show Wednesday.
She offered examples of typical holiday favorites and their caloric consequences, to help steer you away from the worst of the worst, and toward the best selections.
CANDIED SWEET POTATOES
It's true that sweet potatoes are much better for you than regular potatoes. But in this case, the benefits of all of those vitamins are overwhelmed by butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. This shows the importance of really looking at the whole dish when evaluating its fat/calorie count.
2 BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
HOMEMADE BREAD STUFFING
Butter strikes again! Stuffing is often loaded with butter, and while it seems benign, it can be one of the worst saboteurs on the Thanksgiving table. Not only does stuffing have a lot of fat and calories, unlike sweet potatoes, for example, they tend to be very empty calories. If you actually cook the stuffing inside your bird, it has that much more fat and drippings from the turkey itself.
The biscuits have another bonus: built-in portion control. It's easy to spoon more than one serving of stuffing onto your plate. And, while going back for just "a bit more" stuffing doesn't seem like a big deal, you know in the back of your head that going back for your third or fourth biscuit is over the top!
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
Most people will guess correctly on this one: The casserole with its gooey sauce and topping of fried onions is clearly the worse choice. Carrots tend to be made with sugar, which ups the fat and calorie count; you can easily make this dish much healthier by simply glazing the vegetables with honey, instead of honey and sugar.
ROASTED TURKEY -- WHITE MEAT
ROASTED TURKEY -- DARK MEAT
White meat is always, always, always going to be a leaner choice. And, keep in mind that you can further cut the fat and calorie count by taking off any skin from your bird.
HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE
FRUIT NUT JELLO MOLD
The problem here isn't the Jell-o itself, it's the cream cheese and nuts that are added into the mix! The cranberries do have lots of added sugar (how else could you possibly eat cranberries?!), but they're still a better choice than the Jell-o salad. People might look at cranberries' fat-free status and think they can eat more of this dish. Wrong! Jelly beans are fat free too, but that doesn't mean you can eat a ton of them with no consequence. Unlike a fat-free food such as crudite, cranberry sauce is loaded with sugar, and thus, calories.
Wow, this is a huge difference in both fat and calories! Pecans alone are full of calories, fat and sugar, which is why they make such a yummy pie filling! And with the additional sugar and butter a pie recipe requires, and you are really in trouble.
If you had just one serving of all of the "worst" items above, your meal would total 2,653 calories! And that's before appetizers and alcohol. A meal of the "best" choices is a total of 1,554 calories, so making those choices cuts your calorie consumption almost in half!
That said, keep in mind that Glassman recommends the average meal fall in the 300-to-500 calorie range.
Clearly, the biggest diet pitfall on Thanksgiving is overindulging. Even if you just take only one serving of everything that's being offered, you're guaranteed to overeat.
How do you combat this and still get to enjoy your holiday? Glassman's solution is something she calls "the perfect plate."
It's divided into thirds. The first third is white meat turkey, a low-fat, low-calorie protein that will fill you up. The next third of the plate should be full of salad and low-fat vegetable dishes. The final third is for all the tasty starches such as sweet potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Of course Keri also recommends not going back for seconds!
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