Food & Nutrition

15 Classic Thanksgiving Foods, Ranked from Best to Worst for Your Weight

Certain Thanksgiving staples are far more sinful than others. Here, the healthiest Thanksgiving foods to indulge in, and other dishes to eat in moderation.

Cooked spinach: 41 calories per 1 cup


The pros: A generous portion keeps your appetite under control for far fewer calories and more vitamins than other Thanksgiving foods like, say, a biscuit. Each cup offers 5 grams of satiating protein. Need more reasons to eat more spinach right now? Your body absorbs higher levels of protein, vitamins A and E, fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, and valuable carotenoids such as beta-carotene (important for eye health) when you eat spinach cooked rather than raw.

The cons: The spinach could be loaded with hidden calories, depending on how it’s prepared. A quarter cup of crumbled feta, for example, can add upwards of 100 calories. Stick to a balsamic vinegar topping, for only 14 calories per tablespoon. (Looking for a stress-free Thanksgiving? Get our FREE guide for an unforgettable Thanksgiving. You’ll get easy recipes, kid-friendly crafts and games, inspiring traditions, and more ideas for the best holiday yet.)

Brussels sprouts: 56 calories per 1 cup


The pros: Like spinach, Brussels sprouts offer more satiating protein than most vegetables (4 grams per cup). Starting your meal with them can help keep cravings in check throughout the rest of dinner. Plus, one cup of Brussels sprouts provides 195 percent of vitamin K and 125 percent of vitamin C needs for the day.

The cons: They’re not always a crowd pleaser, as far as Thanksgiving foods go. People who dislike Brussels sprouts have a certain version of a taste receptor gene, which binds strongly to bitter compounds. This makes some people more sensitive to the veggies’ bitter flavor.

Gravy: 61 calories, 2.5 g fat per 1/2 cup


The pros: In moderation, gravy can be a tasty way to flavor healthy, slimming Thanksgiving foods (read: vegetables or skinless turkey breast).

The cons: It adds to your plate’s fat count. If you make gravy from scratch, refrigerate before serving and skim off the fat that solidifies on top with a spoon. Reheat and serve.

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