(NEW YORK) -- Even if it's tough to prove the Calorie Control Council's claim that average Americans gorge themselves to the tune of 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, no one can deny that it's a holiday on which most people stuff themselves like a turkey.
But while most are not likely to choose Thanksgiving as a day to start a diet, there are some ways to lighten things up.
Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., a contributor to Women's Health Magazine, lists the seven worst caloric offenders you're likely to encounter this Thanksgiving, and offers some advice on how to minimize the damage.
Pigs in a blanket are small and cute but at 66 calories each, these little piggies can really add up. They're also loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat and cancer-causing nitrates. A better appetizer is half a cup of steamed or boiled shrimp -- a nosh that contains a mere 100 calories with virtually no fat. Just go easy on the cocktail sauce, which can ratchet up the calorie count if you get carried away.
Not So Skinny Dipping
Chips and dip are a dangerous liaison because you eat them mindlessly. Before you know it, you've snacked away on hundreds of calories and too many grams of unhealthy hydrogenated fats. If you must hear a crunch from your appetizer, park yourself near the crudité plate and munch on carrots and red peppers instead.
One slim glass of eggnog contains as many calories as three glasses of wine: 343. What's more, there are nearly 12 grams of fat and 22 grams of sugar. Enjoy a single glass of wine instead. Besides saving you from a caloric and nutritional nightmare, you'll also reap the antioxidant benefits from the vino's phytochemicals.
A simple bread stuffing is already loaded with 178 calories per cup. But when you toss in the sausage -- as many traditional stuffing recipes do -- you make matters worse by adding an additional hundred calories and a ton of fat. So hold the extras and save your calories for something your taste buds are more likely to notice.
When you take sweet potatoes, a food rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, drench them in butter and sugar and bake them into oblivion, you kill their nutritional value and turn them into a dieter's nightmare. You're better off sticking with mashed potatoes, which, at 118 calories per serving, have half the calories and less fat. Or, zap a sweet potato in the microwave then dab on a smidge of butter, sprinkle on a pinch of cinnamon and top with a marshmallow.
The Dark Side
Three ounces of dark meat turkey with skin deliver nearly 200 calories and a double whammy of saturated fat. Not only is the skin a major source of fat, but dark meat in general has the highest fat content in the entire bird. If you can't forego the dark, at least peel the skin off. Better yet, stick with light meat, which is significantly lower in fat and has just 114 calories for the same-sized serving.
Here's one time where tradition wins out. Pumpkin pie is a better choice than either pecan or apple. One slice of pecan pie contains a whopping 780 calories; apple pie, about 415. Pumpkin pie will only set you back about 350 calories, and that's if you splurge on a dollop of whipped cream to top it off.
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