Turkey Buyer's Guide
How to buy the healthiest turkey at the grocery store.
Turkey may be the go-to meat to roast for Thanksgiving but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy it year-round. Turkey is high in protein and many cuts are low in fat. Plus its mild flavor makes it endlessly versatile—try substituting turkey for chicken in your favorite recipes, or swap ground turkey for ground beef when you make chili, burgers or meatloaf. Here are some guidelines for choosing the healthiest turkey at the supermarket.
The best way to ensure you’re buying the freshest turkey is to look at the fat—it should be white to deep yellow, never gray or pasty. Make sure the package is well wrapped and free from leakage. And don’t forget to check the date on the package.
A turkey tenderloin is an all-white piece that comes from the rib side of the breast. Tenderloins typically weigh between 7 and 14 ounces each. Try it grilled or roasted. Check the label carefully to avoid those that have been "enhanced" with an added sodium solution—they’re higher in sodium than those without added solution.
Ground turkey is a mild-flavored alternative to ground beef. Opt for 93%-lean, made from light and dark meat, and 99%-lean, made from turkey breast only. We prefer 93%-lean because it’s juicier and more flavorful. If you use 99%-lean ground turkey, you’ll save 30 calories, 5 1/2 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat and 20 milligrams cholesterol per serving.
Turkey cutlets and scallopini are thin, quick-cooking cuts of turkey breast. Scallopini are usually thinner than cutlets, though one brand’s cutlets can be as thin as another brand’s scallopini. Quickly sauté them and top with a pan sauce or make them into a sandwich topped with sautéed spinach, prepared marinara and melted part-skim mozzarella.
Hot and sweet Italian turkey sausage links can be found with other poultry products in most supermarkets. Both are normally seasoned with garlic and anise or fennel seed, but the hot version has an added kick from hot red peppers.
When buying a whole bird, consider that conventional birds are often "pre-basted" or "self-basting," meaning that the turkey is injected with a solution that can contain broth, stock, water, seasonings, salt and/or other flavor. This can account for up to 3 percent of the net weight of the bird. The label must include all of the ingredients in the solution.
What Labels Mean
Free Range: While this term might imply more, this USDA-regulated term means only that the birds are granted access to the outdoors.
Certified Organic: This USDA-regulated term means that all feed given to turkeys must be certified organic, which means no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, animal by-products or other additives. Turkeys raised to meet certified organic standards also must have access to the outdoors.