Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Thanksgiving?

As a Registered Dietitian, I am not here to be the food police and to take away your holiday favorites. I am here to offer some secret tips on how to make your Thanksgiving a little healthier.

Tip #1) Make your Holiday Plate. Here is our traditional plate that is filled with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, mac n cheese, and a roll. This meal comes out to be 1800 calories. This meal is also very heavy in carbohydrates.

Consider making My Holiday Plate, which is modeled after the USDA plate. First thing you do is to grab a smaller plate and use a 9” plate instead of a standard 12” plate. With this model, have of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, only ¼ of the plate consists of the grains/carbohydrates and the other ¼ is the lean protein. This is great and easy to do because you don’t have to get out measuring cups and spoons and don’t have to know about serving sizes.

Tip #2) Make your recipes a little lighter. If you are the host this Thanksgiving, you can improve your recipes by lowering the calories, fat, sugar or sodium. A great example is lowering the fat content of gravy by skimming the fat off the top of the gravy. Once you make your turkey, pour the pan drippings into a measuring cup and allow it to cool so that the fat rises. For every Tbsp of fat skimmed off the top, you are saving yourself 130 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Another option you can do to improve your holiday favorites is to lighten up the recipe by making your favorite pumpkin pie and using evaporated skim milk and egg substitute. This will help to lower the calorie and fat content of the traditional recipe.

Don’t be afraid to change your recipes this holiday season. You can still have your holiday favorites without sacrificing flavor and taste!

Tip #3) Make your calories count! Be thoughtful this year about what you put on your plate. Instead of filling your plate with the items that are Thanksgiving buffet this year, think about what you are putting on your plate. For example, can you save 200 calories this year by choosing the pumpkin pie instead of the pecan pie? You can also think about the things that you can get all year long like maybe green bean casserole or rolls and save your calories for the items only available at Thanksgiving.

Let’s face it- we can all stand to be more mindful this holiday season and try to avoid the typical holiday weight gain.

Flour Gravy:

  • 1 cup cold fat-free broth, divided (chicken, turkey, or beef)
  • 2 Tbsps unbleached all-purpose flour
  • seasonings to taste

Pour ¼ c of broth in a covered container. Add flour and shake well to prevent lumps. Follow directions below for microwave or stovetop.

Stovetop: In a small saucepan, combine remainder of broth with flour mixture. Cook on medium until boiling, while stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Continue stirring until thickened.

Microwave oven: in a 4-cup glass measuring cup, combine remainder of broth with flour mixture. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes (stirring well with a wire whisk after each minute) or until thickened.

Note: Use 3 ½ Tbsp of flour for one 14.5 ounce can of broth.

Recipe: Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas, 3rd Edition, by Brenda J. Ponichtera, R.D

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