You can enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving dinner this year if you limit portion size, choose lower calorie alternatives, and substitute some ingredients in the preparation and cooking of the meal. You may not lose weight, but you will feel good by eating a nutritious meal with fewer calories. The strategy is to lower the fat content of food, especially of saturated fats, to lower the sugar content of food by using less sugar or sugar substitutes, to reduce salt, to use whole grain breads and flour instead of white breads and all purpose white flour, and to add extra vegetables and fresh fruits to dishes, whenever possible.
Eat white turkey meat, not dark turkey meat. White meat contains less fat than dark turkey meat. Lean turkey is a healthy meat that is rich in the amino acid arginine. The body uses arginine to make protein and nitric oxide. Nitric oxide opens up arteries and improves blood circulation.
Eat skinless turkey meat, not meat with skin. Skin is loaded with fat and calories, whereas a skinless three-ounce portion of white turkey meat contains 25 grams of protein, less than three grams of fat and less than one gram of saturated fat, according to Harvard Health.
Eat stuffing made with whole grain bread, not stuffing made with white bread. Whole grains contain beneficial fibers and don’t cause rapid spikes in blood sugar or insulin.
Eat stuffing with less saturated fats, not butter-drenched stuffing. Prepare stuffing with oil-based margarine or a butter substitute. This will reduce your calorie and saturated fat intake.
Eat stuffing made with added vegetables, not with bread only. Add chopped onions, celery, mushrooms, or apples and cranberries for a more flavorful and healthier stuffing.
Eat gravy made with fatless turkey drippings, not canned gravy or fatty turkey drippings. Pour gravy in a glass container and let it sit for a few minutes, so it will be easier to remove the top fatty layer. Serve the drippings as is or heat with a little cornstarch, water, salt and pepper, while stirring, for gravy with reduced fat content.
4. Sweet potatoes or yams
Eat baked sweet potatoes or yams, not candied sweet potatoes or yams. Avoid excess sugar and calories by forgoing candied yams or sweet potatoes by baking or roasting these vegetables. Serve them with a low-fat topping or spiced yogurt. If you must have candied yams or sweet potatoes, bake them with honey for a delicious glaze.
Eat baked potatoes, not mashed potatoes. Serve baked potatoes with a low-calorie dressing such as low-fat sour cream and herbs. Try some of the different varieties of potatoes for greater interest.
6. Cranberry sauce
Eat freshly cooked or low-calorie cranberry sauce, not the highly sweetened canned cranberry sauce.
7. Side Dishes
Eat green beans, sautéed with herbs and spices, not a fat- and calorie-laden green bean casserole. If you insist in serving green bean casserole, substitute fat-free mushroom soup for regular mushroom soup and you will cut lots of calories from this dish.
Eat a mixed green salad, not a mayonnaise-laden Waldorf salad. Use a low-fat salad dressing. Also, add fruits such as sliced apples and nuts.
Eat pumpkin pie with a low-fat topping, not sugar- and fat-laden pecan pie. The low-fat topping can be a low-fat whipped cream, low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. If you make an open-faced pumpkin pie using a graham cracker shell, you can reduce calories even further.
Eat fruit, not high-calorie pie. Baked apple with cherries or cranberries and almonds is a delicious choice.