Which holiday meat is lowest in calories and fat (per 3-ounce serving)?
Turkey wing (with skin)
Duck (with skin)
Roasted ham (extra lean)
Explanation: See how these common meats stack up against each other:
Roasted Extra-Lean Ham, 150 calories
Turkey Wing with Skin, 185 calories
Duck with Skin, 285 calories
But don't let this example fool you, as ham is not always the lowest-calorie choice. In fact, most cuts of turkey (especially those with white meat and no skin) are leaner. The type, cut, and cooking method of the meat you choose greatly affects calorie and fat content. Here's a breakdown of meat choices, from leanest to fattiest. These numbers are based on three-ounce portions (a standard serving of meat), but be aware that not every breast, wing or thigh is only three ounces (which is about the size of a deck of cards). Read Turkey Talk for shopping and cooking tips.
Meat (3 oz. portion)
Roasted turkey back without skin
Roasted turkey back with skin
Roasted turkey breast without skin
Roasted turkey breast with skin
Roasted turkey thigh/drumstick without skin
Roasted turkey wing without skin
Roasted extra lean ham
Roasted turkey thigh/drumstick with skin
Roasted duck without skin
Roasted ham without fat
Roasted turkey wing with skin
Roasted ham with fat
Roasted duck with skin
Pick the homemade potato dish that is the most diet-friendly choice.
Mashed sweet potatoes
Candied sweet potatoes
Explanation: Here is how these side dishes compare:
Homemade Mashed Potatoes, 110 calories
Homemade Mashed Sweet Potatoes, 200 calories
Candied Sweet Potatoes, 225 calories
Most "homemade" versions of these dishes are made with high-fat ingredients like whole milk (or cream) and butter. You can save even more fat and calories by adapting your favorite recipes and using lower fat ingredients (such as skim milk) or light butter. One serving of potatoes is small—just half a cup. Visually, a half-cup is about the size of a child's fist. Check out the following chart for the rundown of potato-based sides.
Potato Dish (1/2 cup portion)
Homemade mashed potatoes
Mashed potatoes (from packaged flakes)
Mashed sweet potatoes (made from a can)
Mashed sweet potatoes (made with skim milk)
Homemade mashed sweet potatoes
Homemade candied sweet potatoes
Which seasonal dessert can you burn off in the least amount of treadmill time?
1 slice apple pie with low-fat vanilla ice cream
1 slice pumpkin pie with whipped topping
1 slice pecan pie
Explanation: Check out the calorie breakdown of these three desserts:
Pumpkin pie with 2 Tbsp Whipped Topping, 260 calories
Apple pie with 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla ice cream, 410 calories
Pecan Pie, 470 calories
Pumpkin pie tends to be lower in calories and fat than many other seasonal pie choices. But you can make it even healthier by choosing the following recipe options*: egg whites instead of whole eggs; evaporated skim milk instead of regular evaporated milk; reduced-fat pie crust; and less sugar (about half) than the recipe calls for. One serving of pie is one-eighth of the whole pie, but you can save on calories without sacrificing taste by cutting your pies into even smaller pieces. The following chart will lists the calories and fat contents of these common holiday pies (and their toppings).
One of these dressings will add flavor to your meal without all the calories. Can you pick the leanest one (per 1/4-cup serving)?
Thick, homemade gravy
Thin, homemade gravy
Low-fat canned gravy
Traditional cranberry sauce
Explanation: From the lowest to the highest calories, check out the dressing rankings:
Thin, Homemade Gravy, 40 calories, 2 grams fat
Low-fat Canned Gravy, 50 calories, 0 grams fat
Thick Homemade Gravy, 100 calories, 4 grams fat
Traditional Cranberry Sauce, 110 calories, 0 grams fat
Gravy has a reputation for being high in fat and calories, but did you know it's typically more diet-friendly than traditional cranberry sauce? Although there's fruit in it, cranberry sauces are also high in added sugar, which boosts their caloric content. Thinner gravies are lower in fat and calories than thick ones, which usually contain extras like cream, flour (or cornstarch) and butter. If you have a choice in gravy thickness, go for the thinnest one and use just enough to taste. Another great choice is low-sugar cranberry sauce, which contains just 30 calories and no fat. One-quarter of a cup is equal to one serving of dressing. Visually, that's about the size of a large egg.
Choose the after-dinner drink that won't have you wishing you didn’t…
Coffee with cream and sugar (10 oz)
Apple cider (8 oz)
Egg nog (8 oz)
Explanation: It's easy to underestimate the calories in drinks, unless you have the facts. Here they are!
Apple Cider, 125 calories, 0 grams fat
Coffee with Cream & Sugar, 120 calories, 6 grams fat
Egg Nog, 350 calories, 15 grams fat
Although both apple cider and coffee (with cream and sugar) have approximately the same number of calories per serving, apple cider wins here because it is also fat-free. To make the best beverage choices year-round, read Healthy Beverage Guidelines.
Round out your meal with the side dish that boasts filling power for fewer calories.
Green bean casserole (1/2 cup)
Stuffing (1/2 cup)
Dinner roll (2 oz.)
Explanation: See how these sides rank in the calorie game:
Green Bean Casserole: 80 calories, 5 grams fat
Stuffing: 130 calories, 6 grams fat
Dinner Roll: 170 calories, 7 grams fat
Green bean casserole may look and taste like a rich food (made with cream of mushroom soup and topped with crispy onions), but it's one of the lowest calorie Thanksgiving sides. Per serving (which is a small ½-cup), it's pretty healthy thanks to those green beans. Starches like stuffing and rolls offer little nutritional value for a much higher number of calories.
Now it's time to put all of your knowledge together. After all, you'll have to make healthy choices on your own during the holidays. Pick the plate below that won't add pesky pounds to your frame.
A: Roasted turkey back without skin (3 oz), Homemade mashed potatoes (1/2 cup), 1 slice pumpkin pie topped with whipped topping (2 Tbsp), Thin homemade gravy (1/4 cup), Green bean casserole
B: Roasted ham with fat trimmed (3 oz), Homemade mashed sweet potatoes (1/2 cup), 1 slice reduced-calorie pumpkin pie with reduced fat ice cream (1/2 cup), Cranberry sauce (1/4 cup), Dinner roll
C: Roasted turkey breast with skin, Homemade candied sweet potatoes (1/2 cup), 1 slice apple pie, Low-fat canned gravy (1/4 cup), Stuffing (1/2 cup)
D: Roasted turkey drumstick without skin (3 oz), mashed sweet potatoes from a can (1/2 cup), Pecan pie, Low-sugar cranberry sauce, Stuffing (1/2 cup)
Explanation: These were some tricky choices! In order of least caloric to most caloric, they are:
Meal A: 536 calories, 27 grams fat
Meal D: 747 calories, 32.3 grams fat
Meal C: 826 calories, 29 grams fat
Meal B: 945 calories, 26.5 grams fat
You can use the answers and charts above to find the calorie and fat contents of the individual foods. Remember, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas offer plenty of tasty and nutritious foods. But the real key to maintaining your weight is portion control. Fill your plate once, exercise during the day, and stick with calorie-free beverages like water and you'll do great! Make this Thanksgiving a healthy one.
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