The 'skinny' on Thanksgiving

By the time the average American has polished off the last of their Thanksgiving meal, they'll have consumed about 3,000 calories.

That's according to the Calorie Control Council, which is the international association representing the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry.

But it's not all about the calories, according to Audra Wilson, a bariatric dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health & Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital

"Focus on what you want to include and not what you want to exclude," Wilson said.

She also says it's important to eat a protein-based meal for breakfast on the big day.

"Some people try to save their calories, that's a big mistake because you're going to be starving," said Wilson.

Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates which causes a dip in blood sugar. Wilson says that's what makes you really, really hungry.

When faced with grandmother's Thanksgiving offerings, Wilson says to follow a simple plating guide.

Half the plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables. A quarter should be filled with lean turkey. And the rest can be reserved for carbohydrates.

When it comes to dessert, choose pumpkin pie over pecan pie. It will shave off a couple of hundred calories. Plus Wilson says pumpkin has an added bonus of vitamin c.

And if faced with cooking the meal, Wilson recommends chewing gum to resist the temptation to sample.

"It's important to taste food," said Wilson. "But taste testing could lead up to a couple of hundred calories before you sit down for your meal."



Be mindful of alcohol intake. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram.

Wilson recommends alternating drinks with a water to stay hydrated and drinking lower-calorie mixers and light beer.

Working out in the morning can also help soften the blow.

Wilson recommends at least a 30 to 60 walk before and after the meal.

"Instead of just congregating around the table, you're getting out and spending quality time with family," Wilson Said.

At the end of the day Thanksgiving should be about family and friends, and well yes the food.

"The most enjoyment comes from the first bite," Wilson said. "A couple tablespoons can give you enjoyment if you stop and really enjoy."

Here are some ingredients Wilson recommends swapping:

  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream

  • Use olive or canola oil instead of butter

  • Use buttermilk instead of cream (works in most recipes)

  • Double the vegetables in the recipe

  • Use flavorful cheeses like Parmesan and feta. You'll use less cheese because of the big flavor

  • Use fresh and dried herbs and spices instead of salt

  • Try ground turkey, chicken or tofu crumbles in place of beef
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