Tips for a healthier Thanksgiving

Give thanks to your body and make your Thanksgiving healthy.

November 21, 2017 - Author: Stephanie Marino, Michigan State University Extension and Zoe Sarakatsannis, MSU Dietetic Intern

Happy November! Thanksgiving is upon us which means it’s time to start menu planning. Whether we are having a party or a small gathering – it’s important to keep our health in mind. In fact, most Thanksgiving dishes are extremely high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. Being mindful of what goes into our body on this day isn’t so hard and all it takes is a few substitutions and alternatives.

  1. First and foremost, the big turkey! This seems to be almost everyone’s favorite next to pumpkin pie of course. However, it makes a huge difference depending on how we prepare and cook it. Turkey is a lean meat but when it comes to deep frying it becomes not so “lean” anymore. Deep frying turkey adds extra fat that isn’t needed. This year, opt out of deep frying and bake it instead. Rather than stuffing and glazing the turkey with butter or salt, add fresh herbs and lemon.
  2. What goes on top of turkey and mashed potatoes? Gravy! Instead of adding the turkey drippings, which contain mostly fat, use a low-sodium or low-fat broth. You can also make it vegetarian by using a vegetable broth.
  3. Sides, sides, and more sides! We all love to have options for thanksgiving dinner but sometimes there can be too many. This year, slim down on the number of sides. It will save time and money. Sides can still be fun to modify and it’s super easy to make them healthy and delicious!
    • Potatoes – Cut back on the butter and salt by adding low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt. This will add a creamy consistency that is out of this world. For extra flavor, incorporate roasted herbs and garlic. If you’re looking to add more color to your menu, mix it up with sweet potatoes!
    • Stuffing – Slim down the stuffing recipe by adding nutritious whole grain croutons rather than white bread. This will also make the dish much heartier. Spruce it up by adding sausage, apples, and cranberries to the mixture.
    • Green beans – We can incorporate any vegetable we like but instead of turning it into a casserole, try steaming the vegetables, adding lemon, herbs, and a little bit of sea salt. Another healthy choice is adding a refreshing salad to the menu.

4. We can’t forget dessert! Most of the calories in pies come from the crust and sugar. Try making a crust-free pumpkin pie      this year or use a reduced-fat crust. It may also be important to cut down on a few desserts.

These healthy alternatives and substitutions are a great start to making our Thanksgiving menu healthier and delicious for ourselves and our guests. Enjoy! 

Tags: food & health, msu extension, nutrition, weight management


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