The 5 Worst Calorie Offenders on Your Thanksgiving Table

Although Thanksgiving fare is made from an array of healthy ingredients, oversize portions and gobs of butter and oil can make anybody’s pants button pop. These five dishes are the worst calorie offenders on your turkey day table.

Mashed Potatoes

A traditional serving of mashed spuds can have about 400 calories. Don’t blame the potatoes for all those calories — many come from tons of added butter and heavy cream. One tablespoon of butter has about 100 calories. If a recipe calls for one stick, that’s 800 extra calories for the recipe.

To Lighten Up

Use a combo of potatoes and parsnips for your mash.

Cut back on the butter — you don’t need more than one or two teaspoons per serving.

Use whipped butter instead of stick butter, which has fewer calories per serving.

Instead of heavy cream, use whole milk.

Homemade Thanksgiving Stuffing

Photo by: Brent Hofacker

Brent Hofacker


One cup of traditional stuffing, often made with piles of sausage, has about 475 calories. Although it may not seem like a lot of calories for one dish, remember your table is filled with several sides alongside the turkey, plus all those pies.

To Lighten Up

Use 1/2 to 1 ounce of meat per serving.

Reduce the butter and use low-sodium chicken stock for additional moisture.

Use 100 percent whole-grain bread instead of cornbread or white bread.

Add fruit like apple or pears for extra nutrition.

Recipe to Try: Herb and Apple Stuffing

Green Bean Casserole

A typical Thanksgiving green bean casserole can contain a whopping 550 calories per serving. That’s due to piles of cheese, gobs of heavy cream and that crunchy fried onion topping.

FN_FN Kitchens Slimmed Green Bean Casserole.tif

FN_FN Kitchens Slimmed Green Bean Casserole.tif

FN_FN Kitchens Slimmed Green Bean Casserole.tif

©2012, Television Food NEtwork, G.P. All Rights Reserved

2012, Television Food NEtwork, G.P. All Rights Reserved

To Lighten Up

Instead of using heavy cream, make your own creamy sauce using a combo of low-fat milk and cornstarch or flour.

Cut back on the cheese and aim for 2 tablespoons per serving.

Instead of topping with fried onions, use sauteed onions and panko breadcrumbs.

Canned Cranberry Sauce

Canned jellied cranberry sauce has 110 calories per 1/4-cup serving. But it’s not the calories that are so scary. Some popular brands are made of these ingredients: cranberries, high-fructose corn syrup, water and, yup, more corn syrup. And 1/4 cup contains a whopping 21 grams of sugar!

To Lighten Up

Control the sugar by making your own, which takes 10 to 15 minutes, plus chilling time in the refrigerator.

If you’re set on canned cranberry sauce, look for brands made without high-fructose corn syrup.

Recipe to Try: Fresh Cranberry Relish

Pecan Pie

Pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato and apple pie are traditional favorites. Although apple and pumpkin pie both have about 400 calories per serving, pecan pie can rack up 500 or more because of the nuts. Make it a la mode with 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream and you’re talking closer to 650 calories per serving.

Flat Apple Pie with Perfect Pie Crust

Flat Apple Pie with Perfect Pie Crust

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Flat Apple Pie with Perfect Pie Crust

To Lighten Up

Instead of using a whole pie crust, use half to make a galette (an open-faced tart).

Decrease the butter on the filling.

Use fewer pecans — about half or even one-quarter than called for in the recipe.

Pie Recipes to Try:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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