Last Updated on Jul 23, 2018

What is Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving Day is a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and the preceding year. In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October. In the United States, the day is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on November 26. Thanksgiving dinner consists of turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole and cornbread. With this high-calorie dinner, an average person gains more weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The gained weight is often never lost and accumulate year after.

According to the Calorie Control Council, a person consumes about 3,000 calories from the Thanksgiving dinner and 1,500 from all the snacking throughout the day. Eating a high-calorie Thanksgiving dinner results in fatigue and induces sleep, as the body takes a longer time to metabolize the consumed food. Studies show that consumption of high-calorie food causes the blood vessels to stiffen and increase the levels of triglycerides. Consumption of alcohol and lack of physical activity during festive season result in weight gain and increase the risk factors for heart diseases.

Stay Fit and Healthy This Thanksgiving Day

According to a calorie analysis in the New York Times, an average Thanksgiving meal provides 2,486 calories.

Dark meat 4 ounces 206
White meat 2 ounces 93
Sausage stuffing 1 serving 310
Dinner roll with butter 1 serving 310
Mashed potatoes casserole with butter and topped with marshmallows 1 serving 300
Mashed potatoes with gravy 1/2 cup 140
Green bean casserole 2/3 cup 110
Cranberry sauce 2 tablespoons 15
Roasted brussels sprouts 1 serving 83
Pumpkin pie 1 serving 316
Pecan pie 1 serving 503
Whipped cream for pie 2 tablespoons 100
Total 2,486 Kcal

A person consumes 2,486 calories at one meal on Thanksgiving Day. Taking into account the extra snacking throughout the day, you end up consuming 4,500 calories, which is more the twice the recommended daily intake. But, the good news is that you can eat everything, but in moderation.

How To Stay Healthy On Thanksgiving Day?

Some simple tips may help you to have a healthy Thanksgiving Day.

  • Eat low-fat and low-calorie foods such as fresh salads, lean meat, whole grain cereals and bread for days in advance of the Thanksgiving dinner, and for days after.
  • Do not skip your breakfast on Thanksgiving Day. Eating breakfast helps you not to snack before the meal and also prevents overeating. For instance, have a whole grain cereal with low-fat milk and fresh fruits. This fiber-rich breakfast will keep you satiated for a longer period.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Snack on fruits and fresh salads to overcome your hunger pangs.
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol and avoid carbonated beverages. These high-calorie beverages contribute to weight gain.
  • Look for healthy substitutions from the main course turkey to the dessert pumpkin pie; there are many healthy substitutions that can be made.
  • Plan the meal for the day. Do not in cream sauces steam or boil the vegetables.
  • Use fresh fruits and vegetables to prepare the meal, instead of canned or frozen ingredients.
  • During the big meal, fill half of your plate with vegetables before you reach for turkey and mashed potatoes. Including more vegetables in your meal, will keep you from indulging in unhealthy food.
  • Opt for white meat turkey as it is healthier than dark meat turkey, which is high in fat. Do not eat the skin, as it has a higher fat content.
  • Be mindful of the food you eat. Turn off your television during dinner and be truly thankful for what you eat.
  • Go for a smaller plate. Eat slowly and savor your Thanksgiving meal. This helps you to avoid overeating.
  • Limit the intake of foods that are high in sugar such as cranberry sauce. Go for a teaspoon or two. Use homemade cranberry sauce as it is less in calories compared to jellied cranberry sauce.
  • Opt for a slice of pumpkin pie, which has fewer calories than apple pie and pumpkin cheesecakes. Relish the pumpkin pie without toppings, such as ice cream or whipped cream.
  • After the Thanksgiving meal, take a walk alone or as a family.
Tips for Healthy Thanksgiving Day

Healthy Substitutes For the Thanksgiving Dinner

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Mashed potatoes are converted into sugar in the body. To make the mashed potatoes healthier, add pureed cauliflower. This helps cut down the calories and increases the nutrition profile of mashed potatoes. Use olive oil, instead of butter in the mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be a healthier alternative, as they are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Baked or mashed sweet potatoes can be used.

Gravy is usually thickened using cornstarch or all-purpose flour. To make the gravy healthy, use whole wheat, oat or spelt (hulled wheat) flour as a thickener. Substitute milk or heavy cream in the gravy with pureed cauliflower. Instead of adding turkey fat drippings in the gravy, add vegetable stock.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie filling is made of heavy cream and milk. Substitute with almond milk to make it healthier. Almonds help lower bad cholesterol levels and prevent heart problems. Prefer brown sugar over normal sugar. Use more cinnamon than sugar. Cinnamon makes the pie taste better and also prevents weight gain and lowers high blood sugar.

For the pie crust, use whole grain flour. The best substitute for the pie crust could be almond flour. Substitute almond flour for at least one-third of the flour to make the pie healthier.

Make Healthy Pumpkin Pie Using Almond Flour

Turkey Stuffing

Increase the quantity of vegetables in the stuffing. Vegetables like butter squash and kale can be used. If you prefer bread for the stuffing, instead of plain white bread, use whole grain bread. Quinoa or brown rice can also be used. To make the stuffing more heart healthy, add nuts such as almonds, pecans, pine nuts and walnuts. Nuts make the stuffing crunchy and increase the taste. Fruits can also be used to make the stuffing. Dry fruits Fruits such as raisins, cranberries and small pieces of apple can be used.

Thanksgiving is not just about food. It should be about relationships, spending time with family and friends and being thankful for what you have. Have a heart healthy Thanksgiving Day.

Green Bean Casserole


  • Green beans (cut into 2-inch pieces) - 8 cups
  • Butter - 4 tablespoons
  • Whole wheat cracker crumbs - 1/2 cup
  • Onion (thinly sliced) - 1
  • Button mushrooms (thinly sliced) - 1 cup
  • Garlic cloves (minced) - 2
  • All purpose flour - 3 tablespoons
  • Salt 3/4 teaspoon
  • Black pepper 1/4 teaspoon
  • Low-fat milk 2 1/2 cups


  • In a large pot of boiling water, add green beans and boil for 5 minutes and then drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Heat the saucepan over medium heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add the cracker. Stir until the crackers are toasted and set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of butter, add onions, mushrooms and garlic and cook until soft and golden brown.
  • Add flour, salt and pepper and cook until the flour is light brown. Add milk slowly and stir. Cook until the sauce thickens and remove from the heat.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Add the sauce to the green beans and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a pre-greased 2.5 quart baking dish. Add the crumb mixture on top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until the edges are brown. Serve warm.

Turkey and Apple Muffins


  • Turkey (shredded) 2 cups
  • Chopped apples 1 cup
  • Chopped celery 1/2 cup
  • Onion 1 medium
  • Butter 4 tablespoons
  • Olive oil 2 tablespoons
  • Bay leaf 1
  • Chopped parsley leaves 1/4 cup
  • Stuffing cubes 5 cups
  • Chicken stock 2 cups
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a saucepan, add olive oil and 4 tablespoons of butter. Add bay leaf, chopped celery, onions, apples and shredded turkey.
  • Add salt and pepper and cook for five minutes.
  • Add parsley and stuffing cubes and combine the mixture. Add chicken stock until the cubes are soft.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Butter 12 muffin cups with butter. Fill the stuffing in muffin tins.
  • Bake until set and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a platter and serve hot.

Latest Publications and Research on Tips to Stay Fit and Healthy This Thanksgiving Day

Most Popular on Medindia