Eat This, Not That: Thanksgiving Day Edition

The average Thanksgiving meal consists of an indulgent 4,500 calories and 230g of fat, according to the Calorie Control Counsel. Between appetizers, the main entree, dessert, and drinks, it’s easy to overeat and drift away from making healthy choices.

Cooking methods will greatly impact the nutritional value of foods. Likewise, foods prepared with added fats, sugar, and sodium may taste amazing, but will also add to the total calorie intake of the day.

Here are a dietitian’s top picks to staying healthy and feeling good while enjoying favorite traditional holiday dishes with family and friends.


Main Course: Roasted Turkey Breast vs. Deep Fried Turkey Drumstick or Baked Ham

Aim for a lean, white meat turkey breast roasted in herbs, spices, and the meats’ natural juices. Deep-frying adds additional total, saturated and trans fats because of cooking the meat in oil, whereas brining ham adds extra sodium.

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Sides:

Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes vs. Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Whole foods such as potatoes and vegetables seasoned with fresh herbs provide rich flavor without the added fat and calories from butter or cream in more processed versions. This can also be applied to corn and its creamed version.

Butternut Squash Stuffing vs. Sausage Herb Stuffing

Sausage is highly processed and is high in fat and sodium. Take the opportunity to get your veggies in with a fruit or vegetable-based stuffing such as butternut squash or apple pecan stuffing.

Sautéed Green Beans vs. Green Bean Casserole

Vegetables cooked in healthy fats such as plant-based olive oil help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Skip the added cream and fat by sticking to the basics. The same concept can be applied to sweet potatoes and marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole.

Whole Grain Roll vs. Biscuit, Croissant, or Pumpkin Bread

Whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them the best choice. Biscuits and croissants made with refined flours are high in saturated fat and calories and often lack vitamins and minerals. Although pumpkin bread has some nutritional benefit, eating roasted pumpkin would be a better choice because it contains less sugar than dessert breads.

Toppings:

Mushroom Gravy vs. Turkey Gravy vs. Giblet Gravy

Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins and offer a robust flavor to lean proteins. If you love turkey or giblet gravies, aim to reduce added calories, fat, and sodium with portion control by dipping your fork into the gravy rather than pouring it over the meat.

Spiced Cranberry SauceCanned Cranberry Sauce vs. Homemade Pineapple Cranberry Sauce

The main ingredient of canned cranberry sauce is sugar! Look at your options, especially for dessert and make choices about where your added sugar intake will come from. Try making your own sauce with added fruit such as apples, pineapple, and cinnamon or nutmeg spices to boost flavor.

Dessert:

Apple Crisp vs. Pumpkin Pie or Pecan Pie

Pies are high in calories, fat, and sugar. Having a sliver of a slice is enough to enjoy the taste without overindulging. Apple crisp may be lower in calories and fat because it doesn’t have a flaky crust. It may also be high in nutrients and fiber from the whole fruit. You best bet, have a baked apple with pumpkin spice to get your sweet-tooth fix!

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Guest contributor Kate Moran, RD, LDN, lives in Naples and is the sports dietitian for the Minnesota Twins, based out of the Twins Academy in Fort Myers, and owner of The Educated Plate LLC. Follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter and find her blog here.

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