Active Lifestyles: Have your turkey and eat it too

Hayley Blackburn

Hands up if you love mashed potatoes. How about pumpkin pie? Two hands up if Thanksgiving means wearing stretchy pants to fit the food baby that inevitably comes to term.



Now, hands up if the holidays set you back five pounds on your goal? I found the best Thanksgiving trick to eat exactly what I want through the holiday without feeling guilty the day after: planning.

Plan a plate and stick to it

Creating a game plan for the meal always helps me make smart decisions to enjoy what I love while avoiding extra calories that I don’t. When I plan a plate-, I literally write down what I KNOW I want to eat. My plate looks like this.

Sweet Potatoes: 150+ per 1/2 cup

Yams are loaded with vitamin C and B– both great for a healthy immune system to fight winter colds– but contain many carbs. The complex carbs and fiber make sweet potatoes a better choice than normal mashed potatoes (although the calories are very similar), but watch out for the brown sugar coating on top.

Mashed Potatoes: 150+ per 1/2 cup

Filled with starch, butter and cream, mashed potatoes don’t offer much nutrition. They taste so good, though, that a little scoop always ends up on my plate!

Honey Baked Ham: 75+ per 3 oz

Most meats run around 100 calories per 3 oz serving, so swap turkey, chicken or duck in at your desire. Thanksgiving is not necessarily about meeting macronutrient goals, but protein is always a good choice to include on the plate.

Pumpkin Pie: 300+ per slice

Pumpkin pie is my all time favorite type of pie. Pumpkin is a vegetable, so it is healthy, right? Of course, being loaded with sugar and condensed milk makes this treat high in sugar and fat, but not eating the crust can save a couple hundred calories.

Pecan Pie: 500+ per slice

My mother-in-law makes the best pecan pie, so I splurge on her pie regardless of the calories. I limit myself to one sliver and cherish every bite. Everyone needs a treat for the holidays.

Surprise Food

After all of the main dishes that I know I can’t live another year without eating, I reserve a small amount of space for any surprise dishes. Take just a bite or two to test the waters. Maybe next year the surprise stuffing will make it on the main plate. I always leave out the basic things that I can eat anytime such as rolls or casserole. I also leave out things I know I don’t really want, like stuffing.

Take a just spoonful

I always measure my plate by the spoonful. Even with the brown sugar topped sweet potatoes, the thing that dominates my plate, I cap myself at three small (okay, smallish) scoops.


I don’t load my plate with heaping piles because that is what makes me feel like a bloated mess the next day. I have found the key to enjoying Thanksgiving, and any other holiday with food, is to give myself a taste of everything I love without going overboard.

All we need one scoop and to eat slowly. Enjoy that scoop, and it will taste even better when you wait another year for it.

Thanksgiving only comes once a year, so, by all means, stuff your face with stuffing.

I challenge you to create your plate game plan and stick to your goals with only a scoop of what you love.

Collegian writer Hayley Blackburn can be reached at or on Twitter @hayley_blckbrn. If you have a specific question or topic, let her know. Leave a comment!