Thanksgiving Portion Control: 5 Genius Hacks

Thanksgiving Portion Control: 5 Genius Hacks

There are many things to love about Thanksgiving, and overeating is not one of them. It’s safe to say that most people eat enough carbs during the big meal to last them an entire month. Between the stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, pie, and other carbs, the Thanksgiving meal accounts for more than 3,000 calories and nearly 160 grams of fat. Those numbers are based on a full-on binge, and even though it only happens once a year, other factors like sodium and sugar can take a toll on your health. 

You don’t have to overindulge just because it’s Thanksgiving. It’s just so easy to add delicious options to your plate! We get that, but is it worth it to feel bloated and sick? Nutritionists suggest that it is better to choose smaller portions first and then go back for seconds of the foods you enjoyed the most. How exactly do you eyeball the right-size portions, though? Well, we have a little cheat sheet for serving sizes of the most common holiday dishes. Hopefully, this information helps you better navigate how much food you put on your plate. 

Mashed Potatoes

Is the Thanksgiving meal complete without mashed potatoes? Potatoes offer some health benefits, but all the salt, butter, and cream that goes into mashed potatoes renders them unhealthy. Not to mention the fact that people drown them in fattening gravy. Ideally, you will only serve yourself a half-cup of mashed potatoes, which registers 119 calories and 18 grams of carbs. Sticking to a scoop that is roughly the size of a 25-foot tape measure is best for your help. 


You can’t have the aforementioned mashed potatoes without gravy, right? Some consider that a sin! People get carried away with gravy, ladling it over the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and even the occasional slice of pie. Nutritionists recommend the serving size for gravy to be no more than one-quarter cup, which is about one-and-one-half shot glasses. Gravy can be very high in sodium, so take it easy with the ladle, especially if you need to keep an eye on your blood pressure

Green Bean Casserole

Some people cannot let Thanksgiving happen without green bean casserole, while others don’t care for it at all. Vegetables are not usually the issue at Thanksgiving, but they are when you smother them in mushroom cream sauce and packaged fried onions. An eight-ounce can of cream of mushroom soup is very high in sodium and fat. The average green bean casserole yields about 735 milligrams of sodium and five grams of fat per cup. If you serve this dish at your Thanksgiving, try to keep the portion size to one cup. You can also go a little healthier, foregoing the cream of mushroom soup and fried onions and simply sauté green beans in olive oil with garlic, onions, and lemon juice.


There is never a shortage of pie at the Thanksgiving table. One could say that there are too many pies available to everyone. Desserts sneak a lot of extra calories, sugars, and carbs. A standard slice of pumpkin pie clocks more than 300 calories, not including whipped cream or cream cheese frosting. A slice of apple pie is very comparable, calorically speaking, but pecan pie is the densest and contains nearly double the calories. For a slice of pumpkin or apple pie, one slice is sufficient (about the size of a kitchen sponge). Cut that serving size in half if you go for pecan pie. 


Stuffing is like the mystery meat of starches, in that recipes vary so much (nutritionally speaking) depending on how you prepare the dish. Some people just use the classic box of stuffing mix and add in some onions, carrots, and celery. Others make their own croutons from whole-wheat bread and incorporate more vegetables, herbs, seasonings, nuts, and homemade vegetable stock. So many stuffings, however, contain tons of butter, bacon, sausage, duck fat, or even lard. This is not a dish that contains a lot of fiber or healthy nutrients. For that reason, nutritionists recommend the serving size be a half-cup.

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