Healthy Thanksgiving Meal with Green Beans

Many families and friends have annual Thanksgiving traditions. Some family traditions include watching movies, while others include partaking in a friendly football game known as the “Turkey Bowl.”

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Thanksgiving Traditions

Growing up in a large family with two older brothers, Jeffrey Lucchino, MS, RD, CSSD, Director of Sports Nutrition for UPMC Sports Medicine, always looked forward to the Turkey Bowl.

Lucchino’s family typically played four five-minute quarters with several timeouts for the older members of the family to get a breather. Halftime hydration included pop for the younger members of the team and beer or wine for the adults.

There definitely weren’t any highlight-worthy plays, but the family always had fun and felt like they checked off their activity box for the day.

After the game ended, the next stage was their tradition of stuffing their faces with an array of Thanksgiving delights. The meal also included homemade ravioli (Lucchino is Italian, so pasta is involved in almost every family meal regardless of the holiday or occasion). After 30 minutes or so, you could find most of the family sleeping or in a Thanksgiving food coma.

Portion Control Strategy

Lucchino’s family still has the Turkey Bowl, with two major differences. The game duration has dropped from five-minute quarters to roughly one- or two-minute halves, and the postgame meal portion is drastically reduced.

Lucchino says his family has certainly realized that portion control is a real and effective strategy.

During Thanksgiving 2018, one of Lucchino’s brothers made a “bowl” of all his Thanksgiving favorites and used green beans as the base of the bowl.

The move inspired Lucchino, who thought about embodying the bowl concept on Halloween by making every meal a bowl.

If you look at some of the bowl options at restaurants compared to the typical meal, you’ll notice that the bowl sometimes has much fewer calories. One of the main reasons is that a bowl typically holds much less food than a large plate.

There are so many bowl concepts on menus (burrito bowl, buddha bowl, smoothie bowl, etc.), why not make Thanksgiving a true bowl day?

If you’re inspired to make this concept a part of your own Thanksgiving traditions, here are some bowl ideas for breakfast, snacks, and your Thanksgiving meal. They embody both portion and calorie control, but still include amazing flavor:

Thanksgiving Day Bowl Recipes


    • Oatmeal bowl
      • 1 Pack of plain instant oatmeal
        • Pick 3 toppings
          • Fruit
          • Nuts/seeds/nut butter
          • Flavor busters (chocolate chips, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, cocoa powder)
        • Yogurt bowl
          • 1 cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
            • Pick 3 toppings
              • Fruit
              • Nuts/seeds
              • Crunchers (whole grain cereal, granola, crushed up graham crackers)


  • Cottage cheese bowl (1/2 cup non-fat cottage cheese)
    • Pinch of walnuts
    • 1 tsp. honey
    • ¼ cup raspberries
    • ½ tsp cocoa powder
  • Popcorn bowl
    • 5 cups of air-popped popcorn
    • Pinch of slivered almonds
    • Pinch of dried cranberries
    • Pinch of chocolate chips
  • Fruit bowl
    • Sliced up apple (favorite: Granny Smith)
    • 1 tsp. honey
    • Pinch of walnuts

Thanksgiving Meal

  • Sweet potato bowl
    • 1 baked sweet potato
    • 2 slices of turkey
    • 1/4 cup gravy
    • 1 cup of veggies
  • Green bean casserole bowl
    • 1 cup green bean casserole
    • 1 small scoop of stuffing
    • 2 slices of turkey
    • ¼ cup gravy




About Sports Medicine

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