The average American will consume roughly 4,000 calories at Thanksgiving – twice as much as an adult’s recommended daily intake.
And for those who are on a diet, the day can be filled with endless anxiety about calorie counting, portion sizes, and overeating.
However, dietitians have told DailyMail.com of seven easy tips to make Thanksgiving staples more nutritious and in some cases, less calorific.
The experts say you don’t have to make drastic changes, or deny yourself holiday treats you love.
The following tweaks could mean you don’t throw your weight-loss progress out the window…
Turkey breast beat thighs
It’s the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving feast. And if you’re on a diet, dietitians recommend picking some parts of the bird over others.
‘When people are trying to save calories or fat, the way to go is the turkey breast,’ Lyssie Lakatos, dietitian and co-founder of the Nutrition Twins in New York, previously told DailyMail.com.
This is because turkey breast is made with white meat, while the legs and thighs have dark meat, which tends to be lower in fat and, therefore, calories.
Also: avoid the skin. Yelena Wheeler, registered dietitian at the National Coalition on Health Care, told DailyMail.com: ‘Turkey is a relatively low fat, high protein food. However, the turkey skin can get quite fatty.’
Three ounces of turkey breast has 140 calories and 0.6 grams of fat, while a turkey leg with the skin on is 190 calories and 10 grams of fat, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Michelle Routhenstein, cardiology dietitian and founder of Entirely Nourished, told DailyMail.com: ‘Roast your turkey using fresh herbs like parsley, garlic, and thyme to add flavor, which means you can cut back on salt, which can increase blood pressure.
‘Baste it in its own juices instead of adding more butter, to cut down on the saturated fat.’
Swap the butter and cream for stock and Greek yogurt
Using chicken stock rather than butter or cream in mashed potatoes lowers calories while still maintaining a creamy texture
On their own, potatoes are a healthy vegetable that are good sources of vital nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.
However, butter, milk, and cream can add extra calories and saturated fat, which can expand the waistline and spell trouble for heart health in large quantities.
For example, one cup of homemade mashed potatoes is 240 calories with around two thirds of the daily recommended intake of saturated fat.
Saturated fat has been linked to raised cholesterol- the fatty substance that builds up in arteries – which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Ms Routhenstein suggests swapping out butter and cream for non-fat Greek yogurt and vegetable broth to lower saturated fat levels.
Greek yogurt is also packed with muscle-boosting protein – 20 grams per cup – potassium, zinc, and vitamins B2, B5, and B12.
Ditch store-bought gravy and make it yourself
Cardiology-specialist dietitian Ms Routhenstein suggested amping up the nutritional value of gravy with mushrooms and onions. She said these contain zinc, selenium and magnesium which all support immune health
Liquid and powdered store-bought gravy are convenient, but they can also be loaded with salt, which contains sodium – the mineral that is bad for blood pressure.
According to the USDA, one-half cup of liquid gravy contains 424 milligrams of sodium, more than one-fifth of the American Heart Association’s daily recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams.
Meanwhile a packet of gravy granules contains around 370 milligrams of sodium, 15 percent of the recommended daily amount.
Thicker types of gravy that have added flour can also pack in extra calories.
Ms Wheeler recommends skipping the premade variety and making your own by boiling turkey bones in water, and adding a small amount of salt.
Ms Routhenstein suggested boosting the nutrition by adding crimini mushrooms and sweet onions. She said these contain zinc, selenium and mangesium, which support immune health.
Zinc, for example, is vital for metabolism, growth and development, and wound healing.
Add fiber to your stuffing with wholegrain bread
Using white bread in stuffing means you miss out on vital fiber which will keep you fuller for longer and help healthy digestion
Stuffing is a mixture of dried bread, herbs and, often, mixed vegetables and meat.
But experts say opt for wholegrain breads, as white bread can lack vital nutrients like fiber.
This is because white bread is a refined carbohydrate, which means the most nutritious part of the grain has been stripped of its goodness.
Fiber increases satiety – or fullness – so without it, you’re more likely to keep going back for seconds and overeating. Fiber is also known to be crucial for regular bowel movements, and reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Ms Routhenstein said also suggested doubling up on carrots, celery, and onions to boost vitamins and minerals, while increasing feelings of fullness without the added calories.
Spinkle cinnamon over sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet so they don’t need much sugar or other sweeteners added to the dish
Sweet potatoes are a common Thanksgiving side dish and often one of the most sugary options on the menu.
Some of the most popular variations include those covered with sugar, syrup, or marshmallows.
Since sweet potatoes are already sweet, as the name suggests, Mr Wheeler said these add-ons aren’t necessary.
‘Opt for cinnamon for flavoring instead, since it has virtually no calories,’ she said.
Sweeten cranberry sauce with juice, not sugar
Using orange juice instead of sugar adds sweetness to the cranberry sauce while also packing a punch of extra vitamins
Loading up on cranberry sauce is one of the easiest ways to accidentally eat too much sugar at Thanksgiving dinner.
In fact, some store brands of cranberry sauce are 30 per cent sugar. And even homemade brands can have too much if you’re not paying attention.
According to the USDA, one cup of sweetened cranberry sauce can have up to 88 grams of sugar, which is more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended daily intake.
Ms Routenstein recommends sweetening your cranberry juice with a low-sugar orange juice and zest. Although orange juice still contains sugar, it is likely to be a lower amount than you’d use in table sugar, and you get a ‘boost of vitamin C and antioxidants.’
Make a graham cracker pie crust – or eat the middle
Nutritionists recommend either eating the filling of the pies or using a graham cracker crust to cut down on calories and fat
Dessert is the highlight of the Thanksgiving meal for many.
In particular, pumpkin pie is a staple that comes packed with nutrients like vitamin A, which promotes eye and immune health.
However, the crust is particularly high in fat. A slice of a traditional baked pie crust contains about 100 calories and eight grams of fat – about the same as a Mars bar.
One option is to just eat the filling. But another way to reduce your fat intake is to make your pie with a graham cracker crust, which runs about the same amount of calories with half the fat.
However, Ms Routenstein said that it’s okay to savor dessert, especially during the holidays.
‘Some things are best to keep traditional. If pumpkin pie is your favorite dessert on Thanksgiving, enjoy a guilt-free slice with a well-balanced meal,’ she said.
So… how many calories are YOU eating this year?
US Department of Agriculture figures suggest Americans could be consuming as many as 3,700 calories on Thanksgiving if they have turkey. But if they opted for a beef wellington this would balloon to nearly 4,000 calories.
So how many calories are in each portion of a typical Thanksgiving meal?
Four slices of roast turkey — 370 calories, 8,500 steps
Portion of Mac and Cheese — 600 calories, 13,500 steps
Portion of beef wellington — 690 calories, 15,700 steps
Portion of baked salmon — 390 calories, 8,800 steps
Stuffing — 200 calories, 4,500 steps
Gravy — 80 calories, 1,800 steps
Portion of mashed potatoes — 210 calories, 4,800 steps
Heaped spoons cranberry sauce — 220 cals, or 5,000 steps
Candied yams — 290 calories, or 6,500 steps
Slice of apple pie — 280 calories, 5,700 steps
Slice of pumpkin pie — 320 calories, 7,300 steps
Vanilla ice cream scoop — 130 calories, 3,000 steps
Crescent roll — 200 calories, 4,500 steps
Mixed nuts — 170 calories, 3,900 steps
Artichoke dip — 100 calories, 2,300 steps
Broccoli florets — 30 calories, 700 steps