Cook a Healthier Thanksgiving Meal Without Losing Flavor

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Today David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, authors of the bestselling Eat This, Not That! book series, including the new Cook This, Not That! Easy & Awesome 350-Calorie Meals, share their favorite tips for eating healthier at the Thanksgiving table.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average person gains more than a pound a year and much of that fat comes from the excess eating that occurs between mid-November and mid-January.

“Most people will take in about 4,500 calories at Thanksgiving,” said David Zinczenko, author of the popular Eat This, Not That! series and editor-in-chief of Men’s Health. “With a few sensible and simple swaps, you can easily reduce that number by at least a thousand calories, which is especially important if you want to avoid that extra weight gain over the holiday season.”

Top Tips from Eat This, Not That! for the Thanksgiving holiday:

Choose white meat over dark meat Dark meat has some redeeming nutritional qualities, but alongside the calorie-laden feast of the typical Thanksgiving dinner, it’s best to stick with white meat. This lean meat has about half the fat as dark meat.

Forget the candied yams Marshmallows are essentially puffy balls of sugar—sort of like cotton candy without all the stringy pink fibers. You might as well flop a big dollop of cake frosting onto every bite of potatoes. Instead of the candy-covered sweet spuds, go with the classic mashed Russets with gravy. The old stand-by is packed with minerals, and each scoop bolsters your meal with about 3 grams of fiber.

Take it easy on the rolls The various breads on your Thanksgiving table are likely all made from refined carbohydrates, the nefarious nutrients that digest quickly, spike insulin levels, and cause your body to churn out new fat cells. Avoid the trouble by limiting yourself to one small scoop of stuffing and skipping the rolls entirely. Then set your sites on the turkey and vegetables—the combination of protein and fiber has a big impact on hunger, so you’ll still be digesting when everyone else starts doubling back for leftovers.

Stick to pumpkin pie Of all the holiday pies, pumpkin is by far the best. Each slice of apple or pecan will set you back at least 400 to 500 calories, but pumpkin pie will only run you about 335 calories. And that’s with a shot of low-fat whipped cream on top. Also, pumpkin is loaded up with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that improves skin tones and bolsters your immune system.

Revamp your casserole recipe Even green beans become a flab-inducing hazard when served from greasy pans of butter, mayonnaise, and cream, and that’s exactly what you get with most casseroles. So save hundreds of calories by replacing regular butter with whipped butter, mayonnaise with olive oil mayonnaise, and cream with milk. Then use just half the amount listed in the recipe and replace the rest with Greek yogurt. That will keep your casserole creamy while offsetting the fat with protein.

PLUS: For Cook This, Not That! fans on the go, Men’s Health has launched the Cook This, Not That! application for the iPhone. The app helps users to make healthy and simple homemade versions of their favorite dishes at restaurant chains. Go to to download the app.

For more information on the Eat This, Not That! series, visit: