Thanksgiving dinner with my food-loving family is usually all about overabundance-buttery, gravy-topped turkey, calorie-packed side dishes, and rich, heavy desserts. But it doesn't have to be that way. This year when I cook Thanksgiving dinner with my dad, I'm going to make these six easy tweaks to our holiday dishes that will make them healthier and still taste great:
1. Add flavor, not fat. Many recipes suggest rubbing the bird with butter before roasting. If you roast a turkey without overcooking, it won't dry out-there's no need to rub it with butter beforehand. Skip it and avoid adding extra saturated fat. Try chopped fresh herbs and garlic mixed with a little heart-healthy olive oil instead, like in this recipe for Herb-Roasted Turkey.
2. Broth is better. Lots of traditional stuffing recipes call for butter. Use a bit of chicken broth instead to keep it moist without the added fat or calories.
3. Hold the sugar. Many Thanksgiving side dishes, such as sweet potatoes, are already sweet. Why load them up with brown sugar and marshmallows when just a touch of maple syrup or honey accentuates their great flavor? EatingWell's maple-roasted sweet potatoes are a healthy, easy alternative.
4. Forgo the butter. The key to tasty gravy is using all the drippings from the roasting pan (with the fat skimmed off). Forgo added butter, which really bumps up the calories and fat.
5. Avoid added salt. We've found that conventional turkeys (with added salt solution) do stay moister but if you're watching your sodium intake, avoid them.
6. Skip the skin. A 3-ounce portion of light meat without skin has only 132 calories and 3 grams of fat. With the skin, that jumps to 168 calories and 6 grams of fat. (Dark meat has more calories but also more iron: 3 ounces of dark meat supplies 15% of the recommended daily intake of iron; white meat has only 8%.)
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
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