Enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving Day dinner
With Thanksgiving around the corner, have you thought about looking over some of your traditional holiday recipes to see if you can adjust a few ingredients to lighten up the calories, saturated fat, sugar or sodium?
After all, the average American adult will consume 2,000 calories and thousands of milligrams of sodium at Thanksgiving Day dinner alone! With a few changes here and there, that holiday meal, and those classic family recipes, can be updated to be a bit healthier.
Make ingredient substitutions:
- Add nonfat or reduced-fat buttermilk, plain Greek yogurt or sour cream to mashed potatoes rather than cream and butter to reduce saturated fat.
- Make smashed red skin mashed potatoes, keeping the skins on to up the fiber.
- Use whole wheat flour in rolls and biscuits for a fiber boost.
- Baste the turkey with apple cider or pomegranate juice rather than fatty drippings or melted butter.
- Season all dishes with flavorful, fresh herbs like parsley, basil and rosemary rather than salt and butter.
Change up the holiday menu offerings:
- Serve fish as one of the entrees for a very lean protein option.
- Feature many vegetable dishes such as whipped butternut squash seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg, roasted root vegetables like turnips, carrots, onions and sweet potatoes, or steamed green beans tossed with fresh dill.
- Serve a quinoa-wild rice-pecan-dried cranberry stuffing for a gluten-free alternative to traditional cornbread or bread stuffing.
- Feature fruits for dessert, such as baked pears or apple crisp with oatmeal topping.
Lighten up traditional desserts:
- Make one-crust pies.
- Reduce the sugar in bakery items by at least one-quarter.
Other tips to make a holiday a bit more healthful:
- Eat breakfast and lunch to avoid getting to Thanksgiving dinner starved, which will probably lead to overeating.
- Drink calorie-free beverages, especially water, throughout the day.
- Hold off on dessert for at least two to three hours and enjoy a walk in-between the holiday and dessert.
Many folks today have health issues, and your guests certainly will appreciate your attention to their needs and overall healthier dinner offerings. Serving a rice stuffing is excellent for those with celiac disease. Mashed cauliflower is a delicious lower-carb option for people with diabetes. Selecting dishes with primarily fruit and vegetable ingredients will be good for those with heart disease.
Be sure to fill up half of your plate with vegetables, one-quarter can be starch like potatoes and the other quarter the lean protein of turkey or fish or a vegetable protein option. Our favorite family thing to do after eating a larger holiday meal is to take a break from the kitchen and enjoy a long walk. Then we all come back and pitch in to do the dishes.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital and has worked for over 45 years in the field of nutrition and disease prevention.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD