Thanksgiving is just around the corner. If you haven’t already started your holiday dinner planning then it’s time to kick it into gear. Organizing is the key to a stress-free holiday and this year, think about giving your dinner menu a healthy makeover.
Thanksgiving is a day filled with turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, holiday parades and, of course, football. It is a special day to gather with loved ones, count our blessings and be thankful for all we have. Even in difficult times, there are always things for which we are grateful.
Every family has its own traditions and favorite dishes they prepare for the holiday celebration. Most of the time these favorites are deliciously laden with tons of calories, fats and salt, therefore, dinner can be a challenge if you are watching your waistline. Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to throw your good eating habits out the window. It can still be fun and festive, even indulgent, by making smart food choices.
It comes down to healthy substitutions. Try to minimize the need for gobs of butter and cream, by replacing them with a low-fat or fat-free counterpart. Add high-impact flavors from fresh herbs and spices and make use of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. In some baked goods, you can swap applesauce for oil. In some dishes, you may be able to use low-fat or skim milk products instead of whole milk and many other products such as mayonnaise, cheese and cream soup have lower-fat versions.
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Here are some other low-fat recipe substitutions you can try:
Eggs: If a recipe calls for one egg, use two egg whites.
Sour cream: Use the low-fat version or low-fat plain yogurt.
Ice cream: Opt for frozen yogurt.
Heavy cream (non whipped): Whisk 2 tablespoons flour into 2 cups non-fat milk.
Whipped cream: Whip chilled evaporated skim milk or substitute any of the other low-fat whipped products.
Cheese: Use low-fat cheese (non-fat cheese does not melt well, so don’t use it for cooking or baking).
If you are hosting a small gathering, buy a turkey breast rather than the whole bird, as breast meat is lower in calories than dark meat. If you do buy a whole turkey, avoid “self-basting” turkeys, as they often contain added fat. As much as we all love deep-fried turkey, avoid the fryer this year and roast or smoke your turkey. Rather than slathering the exterior skin with a heavy coating of butter or oil, spray it with a cooking spray and season it with a little salt and pepper.
Don’t bake your stuffing inside the bird — it absorbs fat from the turkey and takes the turkey longer to bake (which could leave you with a dry bird). Instead, bake the stuffing/dressing in a casserole dish and fill the turkey cavity with chunks of carrots or celery, whole or halved onions, halved lemons or apples, and sprigs of fresh herbs such as sage, thyme, marjoram and/or rosemary.
It’s hard to slim down a stuffing recipe, about all you can do is use low-fat/fat-free broth and try to avoid recipes using sausage or bacon. Wild rice and grains are more nutritious than bread stuffing, and great alternatives.
Gravy is one of the biggest calorie culprits on the table. I will try to make it healthier this year by following these suggestions: When making the gravy start with vegetable oil along with a dab of turkey drippings; the oil is lower in saturated fat and is cholesterol-free. If you use turkey drippings to add flavor, then use a gravy separator. Pour the drippings into the separator and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Most of the fat will rise to the top where you can easily pour it off and your flavorful drippings are left in the bottom.
Instead of using butter and cream to mash potatoes, save the cooking water when you boil the potatoes. Mashing in the starchy water will give the potatoes a creamy texture. You can also add low-fat/low-sodium turkey or chicken broth, evaporated skim milk or fat-free sour cream. For extra flavor, stir in roasted garlic and herbs or for added nutrition, add pureed cooked cauliflower, or root vegetables such as turnips or parsnips.
Scrap the traditional dessert-style candied sweet potato casseroles in favor of a low-fat, naturally sweetened version. Try a cranberry relish or cut down on the amount of sugar in your cranberry sauce by adding fruit juices or applesauce.
Most of the fat in a pie comes from the crust. Try a reduced-fat graham cracker crust or a crust-free pumpkin pie recipe.