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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate your blessings and is often centered on a feast with family and friends.  Thanksgiving dinner usually features traditional dishes such as turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls and homemade pies. This can easily add up to 3000 calories!  Your Thanksgiving dinner can be healthy and help you avoid putting on extra pounds with just a few modifications.

Here are some tips for preparing a healthier meal.

  • Turkey.  Turkey is the star of the day.  Turkey is a lean protein and contains no saturated fat-unless you purchase a self-basting turkey that has been injected with butter or oil.  Avoid these and baste the turkey with low-fat, low-salt broth, wine or juice.  Avoid rubbing the bird with butter before roasting.  Try heart-healthy olive oil, chopped fresh herbs and garlic for a healthy delicious option. If you roast a turkey without overcooking, it won’t dry out.
  • Mashed Potatoes.  Instead of using whole milk in mashed potatoes, use skim milk.  Save yourself some time and leave the skins on the potatoes.  This provides extra fiber and potassium.
  • Stuffing.  Switch from white bread to whole-wheat bread for the benefits of whole grains.  Many traditional stuffing recipes call for butter.  Use low sodium chicken broth instead to keep it moist without the added fat or calories.  Add flavor with fresh herbs and vegetables, such as carrots, celery and onions.  Adding dried fruit is another delicious option.
  • Green Beans.  Use fresh or frozen green beans and skip the cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions.  Other vegetable options may include brussel sprouts, broccoli or asparagus.  Lightly steam these vegetables and top with a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest!
  • Sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, so we can eliminate the brown sugar and marshmallows and add maple syrup or honey during the baking process to enjoy their great flavor.
  • Cranberries.  Forgo the cranberry sauce and use fresh cranberries either in a cranberry relish with half the sugar, fresh oranges and orange juice.  Or add fresh cranberries to a salad for a great antioxidant loaded dish.
  • Gravy.  The key to great tasting gravy is using all the drippings from the roasting pan with the fat skimmed off.  This provides plenty of flavors without adding fat or calories.  Skip added butter, which adds up in calories and fat.
  • Squash.  Cut squash in bite-sized cubes, toss with a small amount of olive oil and fresh herbs and spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Roast until softened.

 

Drink plenty of water, take reasonable portions and enjoy a walk with friends and family after dinner.  The holidays are a great time for celebrating with family and friends, and with some small changes to the way you prepare your feast, you can keep off the extra pounds and still enjoy all the season has to offer!  Happy Holidays!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, M Ed, RD, LD.  Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County.  stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.  rabe.9@osu.edu

Sources:  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442460011

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