How to Build a Healthier Thanksgiving Plate

The average American downs as many as 4,000 calories in one meal on Thanksgiving Day. But, that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them.

Many people think the only way to keep calories under control is to make a separate plate or special meal. While it’s true making healthier dishes of classic favorites is one way to lighten up your plate, you’ll still be okay even if your family isn’t on board with cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind this Thanksgiving to keep calories in check.

1. Do not starve yourself. Have a healthy breakfast with protein and veggies, like scrambled eggs and spinach. A healthy meal will help you stay level-headed later on when all the food is in sight.

2. Drink water! Drink as much water as possible all day long. Avoid alcohol until the last possible second. Alcohol dehydrates and lowers inhibitions, increasing the likelihood of overindulging. So save the alcohol to have with dinner or after dinner.

3. Fill up on veggies and broth-based soup. Make sure half the plate is non-starchy veggies (anything but peas, corn, and potatoes). Ideally, focus on filling that space with vegetables that are preferably not soaked in butter and cream (like green bean casserole) too. Non-starchy vegetables are lower in calories and higher in fiber, so they will fill you up. Plus, they will make your plate look just as full as everyone else’s but with 1/3 of the calories.

4. Fill the remaining 1/4 of your plate with lots of lean turkey breast. Turkey is an excellent protein source that will help slow down a blood sugar spike from the excess carbs. It’s also filling so you’ll likely get fuller faster.

5. Pick the sides you REALLY want the MOST. Don’t waste calories on side dishes you could have any time of the year. You have 1/4 of plate real estate left, pick and choose wisely here. Stick to the things you really REALLY want!

What if you’re at a buffet or can’t fill your plate yourself? You can still follow these tips by focusing on filling up on veggies and protein first, then choosing the sides you want to indulge in the most.