Thanksgiving Dinner

Approach Thanksgiving the smart way, and there's be even more to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving Dinner

For some of us, Thanksgiving is a simple turkey dinner and a time to give thanks. But for many, it's an eating orgy and a six-week countdown to the same lose-weight-and-get-back-in-shape New Year's resolution that we make year after year...after year.

Break the cycle this holiday season. Enjoy Thanksgiving but don't overindulge; head into the New Year feeling confident, slimmer and in control.

Ready, Set, Eat
Consider the worst-case scenario: If you were to eat a serving of dark meat turkey with all the fixings and sides in the plate above it would total a whopping 36 PointsPlus™ values. Yup, more than twice the PointsPlus values some people eat in a day. Here's how to slash that number in half:

Make classic recipes light.
If you're hosting dinner or bringing a dish to someone else's house, consider "trimming the fat" from your recipes. For instance:

  • Make your mashed potatoes creamy with naturally low-fat buttermilk instead of butter.
  • Pour your turkey pan drippings into a large glass bowl (or you can use a gravy/fat separator) and allow it to sit for 5 minutes so you can skim off a layer of fat. Use some of the fat in your gravy, not all.
  • Slim down your pie by making a light cookie crumb layer instead of a traditional pie crust.
  • Leave off the top (or bottom) crust instead of using both. Or forget all about the crusts and bake your pie filling in small ramekins for mini soufflés instead.
  • Use whole-wheat bread, not white, for stuffing to increase the fiber and decrease the PointsPlus values (not to mention upping its vitamin and mineral profile).

Opt for tasty Weight Watchers recipes.
Compare the PointsPlus values for some traditional Thanksgiving dishes versus our sure-to-please renovated recipes:

Traditional Recipe PointsPlus Value Weight Watchers Recipe PointsPlus Value
Green bean casserole (3/4 cup) 5 Green beans with almonds (3/4 cup) 2
Candied sweet potatoes (1 cup) 11 Candied sweet potatoes(1 cup) 5
Garlic mashed potatoes (3/4 cup) 8 Garlic mashed potatoes (3/4 cup) 4
Mashed sweet potatoes, canned (1/2 cup) 3 Mashed sweet potatoes (1/2 cup) 2
Canned cranberry sauce (1/3 cup) 8 Cranberry-orange relish (1/3 cup) 2
Bread stuffing (1 cup) 9 Bread stuffing (1 cup) 4
Pumpkin pie (1 slice) 8 Pumpkin pie (1 slice) 4
Pecan pie (1 slice) 14 Pecan tartlets (1 item) 4

Know your portions.
To help you size up your servings, come armed with some visuals:

  • 1 cup of mashed potatoes is about the size of a tennis ball or your fist.
  • 3 ounces of turkey equals a computer mouse or a checkbook.
  • 1/2 cup of green bean casserole fits into a small cupcake wrapper or an ice cream scoop.
  • 1/4 cup of gravy equals 4 tablespoons; measure out some water in your gravy ladle to see how many tablespoons one full ladle holds.

Comparison shop.
Look up the PointsPlus values of common foods before the meal so you can make smarter choices. Here's a mini guide:

Item PointsPlus Value Item PointsPlus Value
White meat turkey (no skin; 4 oz) 4 Turkey leg (with skin; 4 oz) 6
Mashed sweet potatoes (1 cup) 7 Candied sweet potatoes (1 cup) 11
Apple Pie (1 slice store-bought) 8 Pecan Pie (1 slice store-bought) 12
Wine (2 fl oz) 2 Vodka (2 fl oz) 5

Employ a Leader's own tactics.
New York-based meetings Leader Elizabeth Josefsberg shares her tricks of the trade at the Thanksgiving table:

  • Don't sit down overly hungry; eat a decent breakfast and lunch.
  • Drink alcohol only when you're eating dinner.
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables.
  • Only go for one round of food (aka Liz's "one-plate rule").
  • Eat the middle of your pie and skip the crust.
  • Even if you just take a bite of a puffed pastry or pecan pie, count each taste as 1 PointsPlus value (great rule of thumb for those random BLTs—bites, licks and tastes).

Go for the two-for-one side dish special.
Hopefully not all the vegetables are drenched in butter. Opt for two spoonfuls of vegetable side dishes for each starch-based one that you take (and no, potatoes are not a vegetable in this case).

Plan on eating leftovers.
There are usually more than enough side dishes for a few meals. Whatever you don't taste today, you can taste tomorrow.

Seek satisfaction.
Think about what's worth eating and what's not. You can make yourself a baked sweet potato anytime, but your Aunt's sweet potato pie is a once-a-year specialty.

Fend off food-pushing relatives.
Don't eat something just because your mom wants you to. Compliment her outfit, ask for a recipe, enquire about an old friend—anything to change the topic from why you didn't touch both her pecan pie and pumpkin cheesecake.