Mr. Bad Food is not usually one for fowl language, but he’s about to talk turkey about…well, about turkey and Thanksgiving – and the side dishes that often foul up what could have been a healthy feast.
I love Thanksgiving. It’s usually a four-day holiday for the working man (and woman) – and it’s a glorious chance to take a deep dive into traditional holiday foods like buttery stuffing and/or dressing, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, mayo-soaked cole slaw, soupy green bean casserole, hot-from-the-oven rolls and yummy pumpkin or apple pie (or both)!
But while I salivate over good memories of Thanksgivings past, I also have bad nutrition numbers for those of you looking to lose weight or – at the least – dine healthier this year.
By most accounts, many of us will load up our plates and our bellies with more than 4,000 calories during our Thanksgiving meal. Keep in mind that 3,500 calories equate to one pound and you can see how an alternate name for the fourth Thursday of November could very well be Black Thursday for the dieter.
And while one wicked side trip from your chosen path of a healthier lifestyle isn’t capable of killing your diet resolve, it sure can put a dent in it. So just how bad are your favorite Thanksgiving foods?
Here is one rundown I found online – note that it does not take into account the foods you have before or after dinner!
Dinner Roll, 1 small: 87 cal
Butter, 1 pat: 36 cal
Cheesy Corn Bread, 2"X2": 96 cal
Turkey, roasted white meat, 4 ounces: 180 cal
Turkey, roasted dark meat, 4 ounces: 323 cal
Turkey Gravy, 1/4 cup: 50 cal
Stuffing, 1/2 cup: 190 cal
Mashed Potatoes, 1 cup: 190 cal
Candied Yams, 1/2 cup: 210 cal
Sweet Potato Casserole, 3/4 cup: 624 cal
Honey Glazed Carrots, 1/2 cup: 45 cal
Green Beans Almondine, 1/2 cup: 220 cal
Green Bean Casserole, 1/2 cup: 75 cal
Peas and Pearl Onions, 1/2 cup: 40 cal
Jellied Cranberry Sauce, 1/4 cup: 110 cal
Cranberry Relish, 1/2 cup: 76 cal
Pumpkin Pie, 1/8 of a 9" pie: 316 cal
Apple Pie, 1/8 of a 9" pie: 411 cal
Pecan Pie, 1/8 of a 9" pie: 503 cal
And let’s not forget the appetizers and drinks we’ll sock away on this feast-ive holiday. For Mr. Bad Food, the combination of football, beer and a turkey day buffet spread all adds up to one big dieting fumble!
There are many ways to curb the damage. One of the biggest: drink light beer or white wine spritzers – or, better yet, don’t drink alcohol at all. It’s not so much that alcohol will have you soaking up a lot of empty calories (although it will). It’s more the fact that alcohol lowers your inhibitions – and you’ll find yourself grazing the buffet from dinnertime until your host (or mate) forces you to head home or to bed!
But before you stop counting your Thanksgiving meal as one of the things you are thankful for on this great holiday, chew on these tips from the Mayo Clinic:
Turkey. Turkey is a lean protein and provides selenium, an antioxidant. It has virtually no saturated fat — unless you purchase a self-basting turkey that has been injected with butter or oil. Avoid these and baste your bird with low-fat, low-salt broth, wine or juice.
Mashed potatoes. Save yourself some work, leave the skins on. They provide fiber and potassium. Or mash roasted squash.
Stuffing. Switch from white to whole-wheat bread and get the benefit of whole grains. Add flavor with fresh herbs and aromatic veggies such as carrots, onions and celery. Or try wild rice for stuffing — another good source for fiber.
Green beans. Keep the beans but skip the cream of mushroom soup. Or try other nutritious green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, asparagus or broccoli. Lightly steam them and top with a sprinkling of lemon zest.
Cranberries. Beautiful and bursting with antioxidants. Try cutting the sugar in traditional recipes by at least half. Or update this garnish by substituting pomegranate seeds — mix them with a bit of sugar, chopped onion and lemon juice.
Squash. The natural sweetness will delight you. Cut squash in small cubes or half-moon shapes, toss with a small amount of olive oil and fresh herbs, and spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Roast until softened and brown around the edges. If you want to save even more calories, substitute carrots.
Gravy. Because gravy contains meat or poultry juices, it does contain vitamins. Try a leaner version. You won't miss the extra calories
Mr. Bad Food has made it his mission to seek out the worst of the worst foods so others can lead a healthier lifestyle. His new columns only appear here at eDiets!