New Jersey Bariatric Center
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How to Fill Your Thanksgiving Plate

By Clarissa Padua | November 12, 2021


Thanksgiving is all about gathering together, giving thanks and enjoying a meal with family and friends. However, it can be quite challenging and stressful if you’re trying to lose weight.  How can you enjoy your meal without stressing about weight gain? I always tell patients that whether it’s a holiday or not, aim for your plate to have 50% protein, then add your veggies and healthy carbs. Here’s why.



Protein should be the foundation of your meals while on a weight loss journey. It helps to maintain lean body mass and to keep you feeling fuller, longer. Some good protein options include meats, fish, eggs, lentils, and soy products like tofu. I recommend filling your Thanksgiving plate with protein first and allocate 50% percent of your plate to it for an adequate amount of nutrients.


Next addition to your plate should be a non-starchy vegetable which provides your body with antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E.  Non-starchy veggies have less carbs and calories when compared to starchy vegetables. This can include sautéed carrots and green beans, a spinach salad or roasted broccoli to name a few. Starchy veggies to avoid are white potatoes, peas and corn.


Last thing to add to your main dish is a heart-healthy carb. Healthy carbs contain fiber which is important in aiding proper digestion. Quinoa, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and green beans are good substitutes for higher carb foods such as macaroni and cheese and sweet potato casserole.

Below is an example of what your Thanksgiving plate can look like:
  1.  2-6oz Turkey (if dry, it may be a good idea to add some broth, or 1-2tbs olive oil or butter in replacement of gravy)
  2. ⅓-½ cup seasoned veggies like carrots, green beans or a spinach salad 
  3. Up to ⅓ cup healthy carbs like sweet potato, quinoa or butternut squash. 


Believe it or not, there are some healthier dessert options you can have with your Thanksgiving meal. Some of the ones I usually recommend to my patients are sugar-free pudding or Jello, applesauce and sugar-free ice pops. You can also make your own dessert to bring to the festivities. Check out our dietitian-approved recipe for a low-sugar pumpkin bar here

Overall, remember to stay fueled throughout the day instead of starving yourself until the big meal.  For breakfast and lunch, go with protein-packed foods to keep you fuller, longer. For dinner, listen to your body. Once you’re full, practice pushing your plate away or packing up leftovers. You should leave the table feeling comfortable and satisfied -- not stuffed. 

For more recipe ideas, click here

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clarissa Padua, RD, is a registered dietitian at New Jersey Bariatric Center, a medical & surgical weight loss center with offices in Springfield, Somerville, Hoboken, East Brunswick, Sparta and Totowa, New Jersey. She provides pre-operative and post-operative nutritional counseling to New Jersey Bariatric Center’s Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve, LAP-BAND (gastric band) and revision patients, in addition to dietary counseling for patients in our Medical Weight Loss program.
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