Healthy Holiday Harvest: Enjoying the Turkey Day Splurge in the Healthiest Way!

November 17, 2017

By: Erica Singer, PA. Nutrition & Wellness- Allied Physicians Group

One of the most difficult times of the year for those trying to stay healthy is the fall and winter holiday season. While the holidays are meant to be a time to get together with family and friends, every party and gathering seems to revolve around food. It’s easy to take a holiday from your healthy eating habits with so much food all around! Did you know a traditional Thanksgiving meal clocks in at about 2,800 calories! That’s more than most of us need in a whole day! A cookie here, a chocolate there, washed down with some egg nog or apple cider, and before you know it your pants are a bit snug! The good news is that with a little foresight, we can stay healthy while still enjoying ourselves. To start the season off on the right foot, here are our tips for getting through Thanksgiving!

  • TURKEY TROT: Thanksgiving morning give thanks by participating in a local Turkey Day Trot or start one of your own! Getting some exercise in earlier in the day will help burn extra calories in anticipation of the big feast!
  • BE A SMART CHEF DURING FOOD PREP: Lighten things up… no one will notice!
  • Baked Turkey – choose a plain bird over a self-basting bird to lower the sodium content. To ensure a moist bird, bake un-stuffed, leave the skin on while roasting and remove from the oven when internal temperature reaches 170 degrees in the breast. Eat without the skin. To decrease the fat content, choose white meat from the breast of the bird.
  • Gravy –refrigerate pan juices to harden the fat and then skim the fat off before making your gravy. This saves around 656 grams of fat per cup! If you are willing to do without the gravy all together, skip that drizzle, as it is mostly saturated fats we can do without!
  • Candied Yams – leave out the margarine and those marshmallows! Sweeten naturally with a little apple juice or diced pineapple and flavor with sprinkles of cinnamon. Or better yet, serve baked sweet potatoes or roasted mini red bliss potatoes instead!
  • Green Bean Casserole – cook fresh green beans instead of a dish incorporating a cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings. You can also try other green veggies too! We love roasted Brussel sprouts or asparagus. Remember to avoid the addition of extra oil or cheese in the veg you choose!
  • Mashed Potatoes – use skim milk, roasted garlic, and a little parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and loads of cream or butter. You can even offer mashed cauliflower as a healthier option too!
  • Cranberry Sauce– canned cranberry sauce is typically loaded with unnecessary sugar, despite sounding healthy. Try serving fresh cranberries without these added sugars.
  • Bread – serve smaller pieces or omit it altogether. Did you know bread is a better choice than a slice of corn bread which has more sugar!
  • Not hosting?
    • Offer to bring vegetables if you know the host/hostess typically does not offer!
    • Bring a healthy dish on your own without forewarning to avoid “No, don’t worry about it!”
  • STARTERS: Start the feast on a healthy – and filling – note. Instead of starting with dips that are high in calories and fatty appetizers, have low-calorie pre-dinner munchies available during food preparation and pre-dinner socializing.
    • hummus or low-fat ranch for dipping
    • baby carrots, cucumbers, broccoli florets and/or sliced peppers for dipping
    • edamame pods or sugar snap peas
    • mini fruit kabobs using toothpicks
    • low-fat popcorn or serve Skinny Pop pre-popped popcorn
  • HEALTHY HALF: Place bowls of different-colored veggies without sauces on the table first, either at the start of the buffet or as the first dishes passed around the table. That will allow people to cover a good portion of their plates with healthier choices before serving higher calorie foods like stuffing and mashed potatoes. Remember, to keep a balanced plate, half the plate should be fruits or veggies!
  • Serve salad. Go heavy on greens, light on non-veggie add-ins like cheese.
  • Even try a broth based soup as a starter to fill your stomach up and avoid overeating!
  • Make the vegetable side dishes the star of the show – or at least the co-star. Try new, eye-appealing and interesting veggie recipes that pack plenty of flavor without extra calories.


  • OMIT ADD-ONS: Make gravy and dressings a choice, not the default. Instead, serve turkey without gravy and salad without dressing. For those who want the sauces, they should add it themselves.


  • PROPER PORTIONS: Be mindful of served portion sizes; someone can always ask for more. After filling half your plate with healthy vegetables or salad, the remaining portions should be filled with protein and a carbohydrate:


  • PROTEIN: turkey, ham, beans, chicken, fish à palm sized portion
  • CARB: potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, bread à fist sized portion


  • FRUITFUL DESSERTS: Get up and moving between dinner and dessert. Always have plain fruit options along with traditional choices. If you fill half your dessert plate with fruit, you will be full and likely to eat less of the sugary stuff! Try hard to only choose one dessert.


  • DRINK UP: Have plenty of water on the table and readily available. Make non-caloric beverages the default option. Avoid soda or juice on Thanksgiving. The extra calories are not needed!


Any way you slice it, this time of year can be challenging, but with these tips and tricks you are guaranteed to make it your healthiest holiday season yet! After all, our health is what we should be most thankful for! Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving, from our Allied family to yours!

Allied Physicians Group is a partnership of more than 150 dedicated, caring physicians and 350 highly trained support staff. Allied serves over 180,000 patients with offices throughout Greater New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and beyond. Founded in 2006, Allied Physicians Group is a recognized leader in increasing healthcare efficiencies and patient satisfaction, emphasizing support, innovation, and collaboration. If you are looking for a Pediatrician near you click here or for more information please visit