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25 Best and Worst Foods for Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving has been referred to as the biggest eating holiday of the year. Researchers from the Calorie Control Council report that the average American may eat as many as 4,500 calories and 229 g of fat on Thanksgiving Day. But it's not all bad. Thanksgiving offers plenty of healthy options. Check out our nutrition ranking below of the traditional Thanksgiving menu (ranked most to least healthy foods), and fill your plate with mostly items from the top of the list. Enjoy a less healthy option from the bottom of the list to satisfy cravings.

1. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are low in calories and have 3 g of fiber per serving, which aids in digestion. They're also high in glucosinolates, which have been shown to fight cancer, protect against DNA damage, detoxify the body, and decrease inflammation.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 27 calories, 6 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 1 g protein, 0 g fat

2. Collard Greens

This Southern favorite is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, and K, folate, manganese, and fiber. A single serving has 10 percent of the daily recommendation for iron (a great option for vegetarians).
Serving size: 1 cup
Nutrition facts: 30 calories, 6 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein, 0 g fat

3. Sweet Potatoes

A half cup of baked sweet potatoes has more than 300 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, which keeps vision, skin, mucous membranes, and muscles healthy. Sweet potatoes are also a great source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects against aging, cancer, and chronic diseases.
Serving size: 3 oz
Nutrition facts: 135 calories, 0 g carb, 0 g fiber, 30 g protein, 1 g fat

4. Turkey Breast

The staple of any Thanksgiving dinner, turkey is a great low-fat protein choice. It's also high in tryptophan (it's what makes you feel sleepy post-meal) which is a precursor to the mood-boosting neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Serving size: 
3 oz
Nutrition facts: 135 calories, 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 30 g protein, 1 g fat

5. Green Beans

Green beans are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants and vitamin A and C. Research has shown that green beans have more antioxidants than other beans and peas. With 4 g of fiber per serving, green beans are also good for digestion and controlling cholesterol.
Serving size: 1 cup
Nutrition facts: 38 calories, 9 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 2 g protein, 0 g fat

6. Carrots

Carrots are high in vitamin A, which helps protect vision, maintain mucous membranes, and strengthen muscles and bones. They're also a good source of fiber and help you feel fuller, longer.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts:
 27 calories, 6 g carbs, 2.5 g fiber, 1 g protein, 0 g fat

7. Ham

Baked ham is an excellent source of lean protein. It's also rich in B vitamins, such as thiamin, niacin, and B12, which help convert food to energy, boost mood, enhance the nervous system, and improve digestive and muscle function.
Serving size: 3 oz
Nutrition facts: 122 calories, 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 20 g protein, 4 g fat

8. Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce is full of fresh cranberries. They're high in phytochemicals, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins, which help protect against urinary tract infections, inflammation, and cancer.
Serving size: 1/4 cup
Nutrition facts: 40 calories, 18 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 0 g protein, 0 g fat

9. Corn

A good source of fiber, corn helps promote digestive health and regulate blood sugar levels. It's also high in antioxidants that have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 66 calories, 16 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein, 0 g fat

10. Wine

A single glass of red wine contains heart-healthy compounds, known as reservatrol, that prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce clot formations, and regulate bad cholesterol.
Serving size: 5 oz
Nutrition facts: 125 calories, 4 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, 0 g fat

11. Canned Cranberry Sauce

While cranberries still offer the same health benefits, even if canned, the canned sauce has more calories and 21 g of sugar compared to just 9 g of sugar in homemade cranberry sauce.
Serving size: 1/4 cup
Nutrition facts: 110 calories, 25 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 0 g protein, 0 g fat

12. Apple Crisp

With a hearty helping of fresh apples, a small amount of butter, and no cream, apple crisp is a lower calorie and lower fat option compared to pumpkin and pecan pie.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 161 calories, 30 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g protein, 3 g fiber

13. Green Bean Casserole

Not only is green bean casserole made with fatty cream and whole milk, it's also topped with deep-fried onion rings. A cup of green bean casserole has three times the calories and fat as plain green beans. For the healthier version, try our Lemon Panko Green Bean recipe.
Serving size: 1 cup
Nutrition facts: 142 calories, 14 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein, 9 g fat

14. Sweet Potato Casserole

While the sweet potato offers a variety of nutrients, the unhealthy addition of butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows lack nutrients and add up to 12 g of fat and 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Make our healthy Sweet Potato Mash recipe instead.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 250 calories, 33 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein, 12 g fat

15. Pumpkin Pie

High in calories and fat, pumpkin pie is layered with pumpkin (high in beta carotene and healthy on its own), butter, cream cheese, sugar, and egg yolks. Top it off with a scoop of ice cream and whipped cream, and it's an even less healthy dessert.
Serving size: 1 slice
Nutrition facts: 337 calories, 46 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g protein, 13 g fat

16. Apple Pie

The polyphenols found in apples help regulate blood sugar, reduce sugar absorption, and stimulate insulin production. But when doused in butter, sugar, and refined flour, the health benefits are outweighed by calories and fat.
Serving size: 1/8 pie
Nutrition facts: 411 calories, 39 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein, 19 g fat

17. Cornbread

When prepared with 2% milk, cornbread does offer 15 percent of your daily recommendation for calcium. Other than the calcium, it's low on nutrients and high in calories. Try our Pumpkin Seed Cornbread recipe.
Serving size: 2-inch square
Nutrition facts: 173 calories, 28 carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein, 5 g fat

18. Stuffing

Stuffing is made with giblets, sausage, butter, and other ingredients high in fat and calories. A small serving of stuffing has 9 g of fat and very few nutrients. Whip up our Apple, Fruit, and Nut Stuffing recipe.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 160 calories, 18 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein, 9 g fat

19. Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are most often mixed with a large amount of high calorie, high fat, and artery-clogging butter, cream, and milk. Plus, if you top them with homemade gravy (see #24 on our list), you'll add more than 200 extra calories to your meal.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 116 calories, 17 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein, 5 g fiber

20. Mac 'n Cheese

This classic comfort food is high in calcium and phosphorous to help build strong bones, but it's also high in artery-clogging saturated fat, which has been linked to heart disease when consumed in excess.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 210 calories, 14 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 7 g protein, 12 g fat

21. Pecan Pie

Pecans are high in 19 vitamins and a good source of healthy fats and fiber. While they're healthy alone, mixing them into a pie that's high in sugar, butter, and refined carbohydrates makes for a piece of pie with as many calories (more than 500) as a typically meal.
Serving size: 1/8 pie
Nutrition facts: 503 calories, 64 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 6 g protein, 27 g fat

22. Bread Pudding

The cinnamon in bread pudding can help control blood sugar and reduce inflammation, but it doesn't make up for the layers of fatty butter and cream. It's also a high calorie side dish to an already calorie-heavy meal. For a healthier option, try our Butternut Squash and Kale Bread Pudding.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition facts: 270 calories, 39 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 9 g protein, 12 g fat

23. Beer

Drinking beer on one of the biggest eating days of the year can cause a domino effect. Beer, like other forms of alcohol, lowers blood sugar, which can leave your body craving seconds at the dinner table. Drinking beer also increases inflammation, so it can slow recovery from your morning turkey trot.
Serving size : 12 oz
Nutrition facts: 153 calories, 13 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 2 g protein, 0 g fat

24. Canned Gravy

While canned gravy may be lighter than homemade gravy (see #25 below), it doesn't mean it's a healthy option. Canned gravy is full of salt, sugar, and preservatives that have no nutritional value.
Serving size:
1/4 cup
Nutrition facts: 25 calories, 3 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein, 0 g fat

25. Homemade Gravy

Most often made from turkey pan drippings, gravy is a high calorie topping for turkey and mashed potatoes. A quarter cup of gravy has little nutrients and 18 g of fat, most of which is saturated.
Serving size: 1/4 cup
Nutrition facts: 262 calories, 26 carbs, 0 g fiber, 4 g protein, 18 g fat

Tags: Calories, Food, Dinner, Health, Cooking

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