Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet

See how a traditional turkey dinner adds up — or doesn't have to — with our interactive Thanksgiving plate.
Cheat Sheets

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 on the plate above, it would total a whopping 40 PointsPlus® values. Here's how to slash that number:

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 lowfat buttermilk instead of butter
  • Pour your turkey pan drippings into a large glass bowl (or you can use a gravy/fat separator) and allow them 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) 3
Bread stuffing (1 cup) 9 Bread stuffing (1 cup) 3
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 equal 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 (4 fl oz) 4 Vodka (2 fl oz) 5

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, inquire about an old friend — anything to change the topic from why you didn't touch either her pecan pie or pumpkin cheesecake.

Free Newsletter Get it now