Thanksgiving Recipe Makeover: How to Cut Calories at Thanksgiving Dinner

Save 1,273 calories and 92 grams of fat over the traditional version with this healthy Thanksgiving dinner makeover.

With all the great Thanksgiving dishes to taste, chances are you’ll eat far more calories on Turkey Day than you would at a typical dinner. But if you just have a light breakfast and lunch or snack, our version of the big meal, which has less than half the calories and a quarter of the fat of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, can easily fit into a healthy 1,500- to 2,000-calorie day. With a few simple changes to the classic Thanksgiving menu, our healthy Thanksgiving menu – which still includes turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, onions, green beans and pumpkin pie – saves 1,273 calories and 92 grams of fat over the traditional version. Here’s how it compares to a menu with traditional versions of these dishes. Download a FREE Thanksgiving Dinner Menu & Shopping List!

Watch: See our tips for a healthy turkey

  EatingWell Meal Traditional Meal Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 1,061 2,334 1,273 55%
Fat (g) 35 127 92 72%
Saturated Fat (g) 9 68 59 87%
Sodium (mg) 1,580 3,227 1,647 51%

1. Turkey

Calories Saved: 199

Turkey doesn’t need butter or brining to be a success. The typical antidote to dry, boring turkey is to slather it with butter, which adds saturated fat, or to brine it, which starts several days in advance and is messy. Our simple solution this year is to use a rub made with miso to add a subtle, savory flavor to the turkey. Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans; it can be found near tofu at most supermarkets.

More Healthy Recipes to Try:
EatingWell's Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes
Leftover Turkey Recipes & Leftover Chicken Recipes

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 169 368 199 54%
Fat (g) 6 16 10 63%
Saturated Fat (g) 1 7 6 86%
Sodium (mg) 188 994 806 81%

Featured Recipe:
Citrus Gravy

2. Gravy

Calories Saved: 64

Citrus brightens up gravy. There’s no need to add fat to a gravy. Just a squeeze of fragrant Meyer lemon makes this easy pan gravy extraordinary. Meyer lemons taste like a cross between a regular lemon and an orange; they add perky citrus flavor to both the gravy and the roasted-garlic-and-lemon-rubbed turkey. They’re in season starting in November; find them at well-stocked supermarkets.

More Healthy Recipes to Try:
Delicious Gravy Recipes
4 Secrets for Smooth Gravy

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 32 96 64 67%
Fat (g) 0 8 8 100%
Saturated Fat (g) 0 5 5 100%
Sodium (mg) 62 256 194 76%

Featured Recipe:
Creamed Onions

3. Creamed Onions

Calories Saved: 181

Creamed onions don’t need cream. It’s easy to lighten up creamed onions by using less butter and opting for low-fat milk instead of cream. But the real magic in this recipe is that we roast the onions before adding them to the sauce. This step caramelizes the onions and intensifies the flavor, which you may find sadly lacking if you go back to a traditional version.

More Healthy Recipes to Try:
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Holiday Side Dish Recipes

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 117 298 181 61%
Fat (g) 5 21 16 76%
Saturated Fat (g) 2 13 11 85%
Sodium (mg) 243 634 391 62%

4. Sweet Potato Casserole

Calories Saved: 403

Sweet potatoes need not taste like dessert. If you didn’t know better, it would be easy to mistake the classic marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole for a dessert instead of a side dish. So we cut the butter and sugar and use evaporated milk for creaminess and crushed pineapple (with just 2 tablespoons of brown sugar) for a mellow touch of sweetness. Plus we skip the marshmallows and top it with meringue. The result:?we cut more than 400 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving.

More Healthy Recipes to Try:
Easy Thanksgiving Casserole Recipes
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Easy Sweet Potato Recipes
Holiday Side Dish Recipes

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 196 599 403 67%
Fat (g) 7 22 15 68%
Saturated Fat (g) 1 13 12 92%
Sodium (mg) 194 252 58 23%

Featured Recipe:
Sausage Stuffing

5. Stuffing

Calories Saved: 187

Stuffing is best made from scratch. Instead of prepackaged stuffing mix, start with good, wholesome ingredients. This sausage stuffing has about half the calories and 87% less saturated fat than traditional sausage stuffing because we use more apples and vegetables and less bread and sausage. Plus we go with whole-wheat bread for added fiber and turkey sausage because it has less fat than regular pork sausage.

More Healthy Recipes to Try:
Easy Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Holiday Side Dish Recipes

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 183 370 187 51%
Fat (g) 4 19 15 79%
Saturated Fat (g) 1 6 5 83%
Sodium (mg) 512 827 315 38%

Featured Recipe:
Lemon-Dill Green Beans

6. Green Beans

Calories Saved: 36

Simple is better for vegetable sides. Sure, you can spend hours on fancy vegetable dishes, but we prefer to stick with quick preparations for green vegetables (there are plenty of other dishes to spend your time on). These steamed green beans are tossed with lemon and dill and take only 15 minutes to prepare. Their clean, fresh flavor is a welcome counterpoint to the rest of the menu.

More Healthy Recipes to Try:
Green Bean Casserole and More Easy Thanksgiving Casserole Recipes
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Fresh Recipes for Green Beans
Holiday Side Dish Recipes

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 72 108 36 33%
Fat (g) 4 8 4 50%
Saturated Fat (g) 1 4 3 75%
Sodium (mg) 207 72 -135 -188%

Featured Recipe:
Holiday Pumpkin Pie

7. Pie

Calories Saved: 203

A slice of pie can be guilt-free. To add fiber and nutrients and keep the crust tender, we use a blend of whole-wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour. Plus we reduce saturated fat by replacing some of the butter with heart-healthy canola oil. We use low-fat sweetened condensed milk instead of full-fat for the pumpkin filling. You still get a great-tasting pie, but with 25 grams less fat and 203 fewer calories per serving.

More Healthy Recipes to Try:
Easy Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes
Delicious Pumpkin Dessert Recipes
Healthy Apple Pie and More Fall Pie Recipes

  EatingWell Recipe Traditional Recipe Amount Saved % Cut
Calories 292 495 203 41%
Fat (g) 9 34 25 74%
Saturated Fat (g) 3 19 16 84%
Sodium (mg) 174 192 18 9%