Thanksgiving: Skim Fat, Add Flavor
Thanksgiving doesn't have to knock the stuffing out of your diet plan
One of the many good things about Thanksgiving is that the traditional
festive meal doesn't have to be unhealthy. There are far worse things to eat
during the holidays than white-meat turkey and vegetables. And what's even
better, say experts, is that by dropping fat and adding flavor, you can make
your Thanksgiving a day of good nutrition that your whole family will
"From a nutritional perspective, there are little things you can do to
your traditional recipes and to the choices you make at parties and restaurants
that can make a big difference in your nutrition while reducing calories and
fat," says Ellie Krieger, registered dietitian and host of Living
Better, a syndicated television show about healthy cooking.
Krieger says there are many ways to add vegetables and healthy, fiber-rich
ingredients to your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
"Pumpkin is a great food that we usually eat at Thanksgiving," says
Krieger. "And it's easy to use in the canned form. Canned pumpkin is higher
in vitamins than fresh pumpkin. A slice of pumpkin pie has half the calories of
a slice of pecan pie."
Add pumpkin to soups, breads, and even mashed potatoes for a special holiday
flavor, she says.
"A great tool for lightening holiday fat content is canned, low-sodium
chicken or beef broth," says Leslie J. Bonci, RD, spokeswoman for the
American Dietetic Association and director of the sports medicine nutrition
program at the University of Pittsburgh. "Use that instead of adding fat to
your mashed potatoes. That way you can cut out 75% of the butter called for in
most traditional recipes."
Drop the Butter
Also useful in lightening fat-laden desserts is applesauce and pureed plums
in place of butter and oil.
"Use these as a substitute for fat in holiday cookie or cake
recipes," she says. "If you have a recipe that calls for five
tablespoons of butter, you can reduce that to two tablespoons by replacing the
other three with the puree or apple sauce. That way, you get the flavor and
texture of your favorite recipes, but you get less than half the fat, and
you've added nutrients and fiber."
Small changes in ingredients can make timeworn recipes exciting.
"Use fat-free yogurt instead of cream dips," Krieger says. "Add
oysters to stuffing for great flavor and additional iron, zinc and vitamin B12
in your diet. Prepare high-fiber foods like spinach, kale, and winter squash
that you might not ordinarily make. Sprinkle dill over vegetables instead of
Here are some more tips for a lighter but flavorful Thanksgiving:
Use a gravy cup or refrigerate the pan juices and skim the fat off before
making gravy -- this saves around 56 grams of fat per cup. Make stuffing with
less bread and add more onions, celery, vegetables, or even fruits such as
cranberries and apples. Cook fresh green beans with chunks of potatoes instead
of cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
And don't forget the sweet potatoes.
"Packed with vitamin C and fiber and great flavor, sweet potatoes are
great year round, but they are especially good at the holidays," says
Krieger. "Buy them packed in water, not heavy syrup. Mash them and mix in a
little orange juice instead of butter. Kids love them, and it's a great way to
get everyone eating more vegetables."