Here's Exactly How to Build a Healthy Plate at Thanksgiving

POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts
POPSUGAR Photography | Anna Monette Roberts

Having a healthy Thanksgiving doesn't mean cutting out your favorite foods — in fact, you can still have all of them. Just ask dietitian Lori Zanini, RD, CDE — she eats mac 'n' cheese on Thanksgiving! She does, however, have a trick for portioning your plate. It's totally foolproof, will keep you within your healthy guardrails, and still lets you enjoy and savor every flavor of the feast.

"If you follow this method, you will keep your blood sugar more balanced, feel better, and avoid the energy slumps that often occur after overeating," said Zanini. Here's the guide for building your healthy, balanced Thanksgiving plate.

  • Veggies: 1/2 plate (salad, green beans, brussels sprouts)
  • Protein: 1/4 plate ("Hello, turkey!")
  • Other Carbs: 1/4 plate (mashed potatoes, mac 'n' cheese, stuffing, etc.)

You can use this formula for Thanksgiving and all other holiday meals — and with leftovers! "Follow the same method with leftovers," she said. "Turkey sandwiches with a side of veggies are my personal go-to."

Above all else, Zanini wants you to feel good about your choices and not beat yourself up. "Eat the foods that you enjoy and don't feel guilty about it!" she said. Even dietitians have their favorite comfort foods, including her. "Personally, I look forward to my grandmother's mac and cheese all. year. long. So I eat it and enjoy every single bite." That said, she follows her own rules and keeps it proportional: "I also eat a salad and turkey, and it ends up being pretty well balanced."