9 Thanksgiving Food Swaps to Save Calories

Holley Grainger, MS, RD
by Holley Grainger, MS, RD
Share it:
4/5 (2)

9 Thanksgiving Food Swaps to Save Calories

Get satisfied, not stuffed, this Thanksgiving by lightening up your classic holiday fare. These simple swaps still boast the traditional flavors you love while significantly cutting the calories, sugar and/or fat. Your ultimate Thanksgiving meal just became much more scrumptious.



Want to make one of the swaps above? Check out the recipes below!

Low-Sodium Gravy Mix
Fresh Cranberry Relish
Lightened Mashed Potatoes (substitute with 2% milk, nonfat plain Greek yogurt and 3 tablespoons butter)
Lightened Cornbread Stuffing (substitute with fat free buttermilk and reduced-sodium chicken broth; cut butter and sugar amounts in half)
Pumpkin Pie

About the Author

Holley Grainger, MS, RD
Holley Grainger, MS, RD

Holley is a registered dietitian, mom, and nationally recognized lifestyle and culinary nutrition expert. She shares simple, healthy meals and practical nutrition advice through social media, national and local broadcast media outlets and her blog,  Holley Grainger NutritionHolley lives in Alabama, with her husband and two young daughters. She believes that a power nap, workout, dark chocolate, and red wine can help make any day brighter! You can reach her on FacebookInstagram and YouTube


19 responses to “9 Thanksgiving Food Swaps to Save Calories”

  1. JofJLTNCB6 says:


  2. Patricia cruz says:

    I decided to eat normal thanksgiving foods but on smaller portions and pick the healthier choice , like pumpkin pie, and less gravy , I cannot eat the low sodium uugh! , I’ll pick things I like and eat way less, I’m thankful for the helpful advice though. Im loving this app, it gives me control. And it’s free!

  3. Dade Dyana says:

    Holly – I love the suggestions – I just don’t think the rest of the family would appreciate the big swaps on the big day. I think that it is still important to keep fitness and health in mind – even on a holiday centered around the dinner table. One thing I like to do is to take a long walk with my family after the meal. It’s a great activity and is so much better than falling into that typical food coma. What do you think?

    • Holley Grainger says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Dade! I agree that keeping fitness and health in mind is important and I agree that a walk definitely helps stave off the food coma!I completely agree that many people want their traditional food and I appreciate that. I know if someone said eat steamed broccoli instead of my mom’s broccoli casserole, I would completely balk! I think it is about your eating style and remembering it is one meal and one day and if there are tiny changes and modifications that can be made that would still yield a delicious food that would delight your guests then go for it! Hope this helps answer your question!

      • Gloria Bogdan says:

        Not sure of the size of your families, but one thing we have started to do, is make our traditional side dishes, and then make a smaller side dish (or it can be the same size!) of a lower calorie recipe. Example: the green beans. I have made the green bean casserole forever…but, I noticed when I also offered a small platter of steamed green beans (and this year, I’ll put a small bowl of the french fried onions next to it) they were gone, and the casserole was not. Easy to do the same with the yams! I’ll make the marshmallow yams, but bake extras and slice them in half and offer those as the healthier side. Thanks, Holley! You’ve gotten me, and I’m sure others thinking about this!

  4. auddii says:

    I think I’d rather just spend one day enjoying food I don’t often have, eat reasonable portions, and then get back to my deficit the next day.

  5. Mary says:

    LOVE THIS! I know bigger swaps could be made! This is a great start for the very unhealthy. But even bigger swaps can easily becmade! I’m excited to make swaps such as cauliflower mash and agave, cinnamon & allspice sweet potatoes! There are even healthier pie recipes on pinterest!

  6. sswpss says:

    Hate pecan pie anyway, pumpkin all the way!

  7. Jeanne.pahl@hotmail.com says:

    I do cauliflower mashed potatoes plus a crustless pumpkin pie and brussel sprouts roasted instead of green beans.yum yum…turkey trot in morning helps too!!

  8. Evelyn Hunter says:

    Since I’m a vegetarian, I have to be creative about Thanksgiving.

  9. MonicaP says:

    Nice swaps ~ but I gotta have that cranberry jelly 🙂

  10. Enice says:

    I am planning on making some big swaps. My family has gone keto so our thanksgiving will be very interesting

  11. Dan Thorpe says:

    if I was enjoying Thanksgiving, I would not count calories. One day is not going to kill you.

  12. TenishaMikos says:

    Please enjoy Thanksgiving holiday, don’t be too concerned about these calories. Happy thanksgiving day with AmoLink thank you cards.

  13. Barbara says:

    As a host of a holiday meal, I always try to provide healthier options for my guests without sacrificing taste. There are so many great low fat, lighter versions of traditional favorites available online that it is really quite fun to create great flavors and then let my guests know that they are enjoying a healthy recipe. Be good to your family and friends and help everyone eat healthier!

  14. Captain Jeff says:

    I went vegetarian 9+ years ago. Really pi**ed mom off, she loves the holiday cooking thing. So for the past 9+ years I have lived off her sides for Easter, Thanksgiving & Xmas. Last year she made me an amazing spinach Lasagna and still had all he delicious sides.
    I am approx 20Lb over weight at this point (according to my own past weight history). Am I obese, not even close. Am I happy with my current body sculpture, no. Now (holiday season) is a really difficult time to start working on it though.
    Due to my vegetarian diet when people ask me how I got 20Lbs over i tell them the truth, which makes me sound like an alcoholic (which i am not)….but I tell them its not what i eat, its what i drink. Captain & Coke, or sugar on sugar.
    Bottom line America, F’ all these ridiculous diets with ridiculous roles & silly calorie counting. CUT SUGAR OUT OF DIET!
    In 2012 I lost 30Lbs in 60days by quitting the Captain altogether (had no alcoholic bevs at all), eating sensibly, strength training & cardio and a whole lotta determination. DETERMINATION is the key. If you’re not determined, you’re not going to eat right or exercise & you’re going to find something else to blame for it, but no one else really cares. DO IT FOR YOU!!!!!!

  15. Wee Lim says:

    Why didn’t I see all these before Thanksgiving. I could have lost lots of weight by now!

  16. JoAnn Anelli says:

    I like just about all of these suggestions. I don’t think any of these would spoil the meal for me. My present dieting routine is to lose weight I should never have gained, but more importantly, to create a new attitude about what I want to put into my body and maintaining good health (incl my weight),

  17. Steve Dronzewski says:

    It’s once a year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.