Six tips for a healthier Thanksgiving

Six tips for a healthier Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is all about abundance — or, often, overabundance. Your Uncle Tom wants to bring his favorite butter-laden mashed potatoes, your sister has convinced you to make a creamy green bean casserole, and your mother-in-law insists there be both pumpkin and apple pie (with ice cream on the side, of course).

With all the rich choices, it’s no surprise that Thanksgiving leads to overindulgence for many. But before you get to the point where you’re staggering away from the table, barely able to move, remember that it doesn’t have to be that way! With reasonable portion sizes and healthier dishes that don’t sacrifice flavor, Thanksgiving dinner can still be joyful, delicious and healthy.

Follow these tips to make this year’s Thanksgiving your healthiest yet.

1. Add flavor, not fat.

Many turkey recipes suggest rubbing the bird with butter before roasting. But often there’s no need — as long as you’re careful to roast the turkey without overcooking, it won’t dry out. Skip the butter to avoid adding extra saturated fat; instead, try rubbing the turkey with chopped fresh herbs and garlic mixed with a little heart-healthy olive oil.

2. Avoid added salt.

While conventional turkeys (which are prepared with an added salt solution) do tend to stay moister than those without an injected solution, the healthier choice is to choose a turkey without added salt, especially if you’re watching your sodium intake. Consider buying a heritage turkey instead.

3. Skip the skin.

A 3-ounce portion of light meat without skin has only 132 calories and 3 grams of fat. With the skin, that jumps to 168 calories and 6 grams of fat. (Dark meat has more calories but also more iron: three ounces of dark meat supplies 15 percent of the recommended daily intake of iron; white meat has only 8 percent.)

4. Swap broth for butter in your stuffing.

Many traditional stuffing recipes call for butter. Use a bit of chicken broth instead to keep it moist without the added fat or calories.

5. Hold the sugar.

Sweet potatoes are already sweet, so why load them up with brown sugar and marshmallows when just a touch of maple syrup or honey can accentuate their great flavor?

6. Forgo the butter in your gravy.

The key to tasty gravy is using all the drippings from the roasting pan (with the fat skimmed off). This gives plenty of flavor without the added fat or calories. Forgo added butter, which really bumps up the calories and fat.

(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at