'Skinny' Thanksgiving Side Dishes and Tips

(Michael Phillips/Getty Images)

By Diane Henderiks

Thanksgiving is the time to reunite with friends and family, and to give thanks for our blessings. For many of us, though, the mere thought of Thanksgiving dinner brings to mind endless hours at the gym repenting for overindulgence. It's no wonder, since the average Thanksgiving dinner has more than 2,000 calories and a few days worth of fat.

The turkey may be the centerpiece of the table but the true stars of the Thanksgiving feast are the side dishes - and that's where most of the fat and many of the calories are lurking. Why not start a new tradition and modify some of your Thanksgiving favorites to make them a bit healthier? With a little help and minimal effort you can cut down on fat, salt, sugar and calories without sacrificing flavor or feeling guilty about your choices.

Follow these sensible holiday tips to fully enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, and the entire holiday season, without feeling guilty or gaining weight:

1. Don't go to a holiday dinner hungry. Have a wholesome breakfast and lunch and eat a light snack before you go. You are more likely to overeat and make unhealthy choices if you are famished.

2. Stick to your exercise program. Physical activity can help regulate your appetite and burn off some of those extra holiday calories.

3. Choose drinks wisely. Alcohol is high in calories; one drink can contain from 150 to over 400 calories

4. Deprivation leads to overindulgence! Taste everything you want, but watch the portions of high-fat and high-sugar items.

Dinner Plate Diagram

Finally, fill your dinner plate this way:

1. Fill half of your plate with sauce-free, steamed, roasted or baked veggies. Not the starchy ones like potatoes, turnips, corn or peas - those count as starches.

2. Select a total of 1 cup of cooked starches - rice, pasta, noodles, breads, stuffing and starchy veggies. One cup is approximately the size of a tennis ball.

3. Choose 3 - 6 ounces of lean protein. A three-ounce portion is about the size of a deck of cards.

Serve these healthy (but tasty) side dishes with your turkey to avoid Turkey Day guilt:

Diane's Turkey Sausage, Apple & Walnut Dressing

Diane's Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Diane's Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans

Diane's Cranberry, Orange, & Ginger Relish

Diane Henderiks is a registered dietitian, the founder of Dianehenderiks.com and a "Good Morning America" health contributor.

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