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11 Healthy Food Swaps For The Holidays

Did you know the average person consumes somewhere between 2,500 - 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving? It’s a shocking number! If you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, you know it is important to watch your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and or blood sugar. The holidays can make this more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be! The best way to cut calories is to watch your fat and sugar intake. At the end of this article, we have a sample menu for a typical and reduced calorie Thanksgiving Day. But for now, let’s look at some common foods and some tips for cutting down the fat and sugar content in your Thanksgiving meal.

  1. Cook Fresh & At Home - When you cook from fresh ingredients at home, you have more control over the amount of fat and sugar that goes into each dish. Pre-made dishes are frequently loaded with unnecessary fat, sugar, and salt.

  2. Beverages - Soda and sweet tea are very common, but sugary drinks. Cut or limit these by either mixing your sweet tea with unsweetened tea, or alternating sweetened drinks with unsweetened drinks.

  3. Adult Beverages - Alcohol can add a surprising number of calories to your overall day. Go for lower calorie drinks like a vodka and club soda with lemon. Or create a white wine spritzer by mixing chilled cold club soda into your white wine. You can find out more about the calories in your alcoholic beverages here.

  4. Turkey - Roasted, skinless turkey breast has 88% less fat and half the calories of dark meat with skin. Roasted turkey has half the fat and 94% less sodium than fried turkey.

  5. Mashed Potatoes - Swap Greek yogurt for sour cream (both have that delicious, tangy flavor!) and low sodium broth for milk.

  6. Gravy - Make your gravy healthier by skimming the fat from the drippings before using it in your gravy.

  7. Candied Yams - Instead of sugary, candied yams, try roast sweet potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, (or just pumpkin pie spice).

  8. Veggie Casseroles - To avoid creamy vegetable casseroles that are high in fat and sodium, saute fresh veggies in a little broth instead of olive oil. Or try roasting them!

  9. Cranberry Sauce - Sugar balances out the tartness of the cranberries. Leave out ¼ - ⅓ the amount of sugar the recipe calls for and add a little citrus zest or cinnamon. These ingredients will also balance out the tartness while reducing about 100 calories per serving.

  10. Desserts - Leave out ¼ - ⅓ the amount of sugar in your recipe if you are making them at home. Go for pumpkin pie or apple pie over pecan pie, which tends to be higher in sugar and much higher in fat. You can also opt for a low-fat or no-fat topping. Or no topping at all!

  11. Sweeteners - These may not save you on calories, but if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, these can help you avoid blood sugar spikes. Try honey, coconut sugar, or agave as sweeteners as they are lower on the glycemic index. For more information on the Glycemic Index, you can head here. For reference, the following sugars are rated here on the glycemic index:

  • White sugar: 65

  • Brown sugar: 65

  • Honey: 50-55

  • Coconut sugar: 35

  • Agave: 15

Perhaps one of the best ways to cut your calories on Thanksgiving is to be mindful and aware of what you are eating. Ask yourself a simple question ...

“What do I really want right now?”

If you don’t want green bean casserole, don’t eat it.

If you really want pie, but can enjoy it without the toppings, skip the toppings.

If you want something but aren’t hungry for it, put it on a plate and save it for later.

Little decisions like this will add up throughout the day. And wouldn’t it be empowering to know that even on Thanksgiving, you can make healthy choices? We know you can do it!

If you have other food swap ideas or healthy recipes you love, please leave them in the comments!

Have questions about your Thanksgiving meal? Schedule a 15 min call with Kent, our diabetes educator and pharmacist. He can help you learn how to celebrate the holidays safely with diabetes!


Diabetes Supplies & Support For Successful Diabetes Management


6856 Cobblestone Blvd | Southaven, MS, 38672

P: 888.416.0008 | F: 888.416.0009


220 W. Tennessee St, Suite 101 | Florence, AL, 35630

P: 256.203.5058 | F: 888.416.0009

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