How to Cut Calories on Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Before you know it, Americans will be gearing up for the annual nonstop eating fest known as Thanksgiving. If you haven't started planning your menu, here are some lighter appetizer recipes and lower-carb Thanksgiving recipes for inspiration.

Hopefully, the day that’s meant to celebrate all that we are thankful for will also include some of that – in between bites of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, squash, apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and anything else I might have left out.

Did you know that the average adult eats about 4,500 calories at Thanksgiving dinner? Considering most men need only about 2,200 and most women can get by on about 1,600, that’s a mouthful – or a day and a half full of calories just in one meal.

Here’s the good news: Even though most of us step on the scale at some point during the Thanksgiving weekend to assess the damage, it’s nearly impossible to gain weight from just one day of gluttony.

So let's enjoy Thanksgiving dinner!

When the eating feast continues into January, it really starts to add up. So, if you know from experience that holiday self-control is not one of your strong suits, this year, try to work on making a few healthier swaps at the Thanksgiving table and beyond.

Here are a few ideas to help you cut a few Thanksgiving dinner calories. See if you can come up with more, and share them in the comments!

Thanksgiving Appetizer and Drink Swaps

If you like a cocktail, choose champagne. A glass has about 78 calories, versus 120 in a glass of wine, or about 150 in a regular beer.

And if you're not sure what the host will have for appetizers, offer to bring a shrimp cocktail. Yes, it’s a pricey option, but it’s worth it if it saves you lots of appetizer calories (love this lemon slices presentation from Amee's Savory Dish).

Go ahead and splurge on12 shrimp with about ¼ cup of cocktail sauce for about 180 calories.   Unless you’d rather have 3 small stuffed mushrooms for 200 calories, or 2 of those little cheese-puffed pastry things for about 300 calories.

Need some extra light Thanksgiving appetizer ideas to make or bring? Check out this post for nearly 40 recipes.

Thanksgiving Dinner Swaps to Cut Calories

Turkey Vegetable Tray|Living Locurto

Snag a bunch of the raw vegetable crudité from the appetizer table and put them on your dinner plate. One cup of raw veggies has about 25 calories. And with all the fiber it’ll take up space in your stomach so you'll be less hungry for seconds.  

How cute is this veggie platter from Living Locurto?


If you’re making (or bringing the potatoes) mix half with pureed cauliflower. Seriously.

No one will guess, and they’ll be extra smooth and creamy. Cauliflower has about one-quarter of the calories of mashed potatoes.  These are yummy from Jeannette's Healthy Living.

If the dinner or buffet table is overwhelmingly full of options, pick the side dish you love to splurge on. Cut the portion of the others in half.

  • 1 cup green bean casserole about 180 calories
  • 1 cup sweet potato casserole about 300 calories
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes about 240 calories
  • 1 cup of acorn squash, about 115 calories
  • 1 cup of stuffing, about 350 calories

It is Thanksgiving, after all, so go ahead and enjoy those once-a-year treats. But if you don’t love it, leave it!

Thanksgiving Dessert Swaps to Save Calories


Go for the pumpkin pie! It’s not only traditional and delicious, but it’s also the best buy for your calories:

  • A slice of pumpkin pie has 316 calories
  • apple pie has 411 calories
  • pecan pie weighs in at 503 calories.

Even with all of those swaps, I’m feeling pretty full. How about you? How do you control Thanksgiving dinner calories? Any tips or tricks? Please share!

Eat well!


  1. If you don't love it, leave it. That goes for so many things! I highly value bits of wisdom like that which can be largely applied to the rest of my life.

  2. Great tips! I happen to love all things champagne and pumpkin pie so I think I'll be in the clear this holiday season 😉

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