A Healthier Thanksgiving: Lighten the Sugar and Fat

Posted 11/24/2015 | By HealthCorps

Even though Thanksgiving comes once a year, the current obesity rates among kids, teens and adults should make you re-think how you cook and serve on this holiday. After all, the yearly holiday food fest really begins with Halloween and continues until brunch on New Year’s Day. That means “many moments” of calorie splurges and the risk that you will pack on some pounds. Specifically it means exposure to many foods and recipes where sugar and unhealthy fat are key ingredients. So why not commit to lightening up your holiday meals, starting with Thanksgiving dinner. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Beware the foods full of fat:

Consider roasting the turkey this year so you don’t constantly baste it with butter or other high calorie, high fat sauces. Use an herb rub to bump up the flavor without adding calories. Remember the skin contains the most fat.

Opt for white meat over dark meat and on average you will save 50 calories and 4 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving.

Stuff the turkey with citrus like cut up lemons, limes and oranges, which will keep the bird moist on the inside and contribute flavor sans high calorie fats like butter, margarine, or meat stock. Preparing and cooking the turkey this way will also provide delicious gravy from the citrus juices.

Refrigerate the gravy for several hours so you can skim the fat which rises to the top when the liquid is chilled. Reheat the gravy and serve.

If you’re planning to make mashed potatoes, use skim milk, roasted garlic and a light dusting of Parmesan cheese to lower the calories and fat content. You can leave the skin on to boost nutrients in the dish. You can also modify the recipe and use half the required potatoes and then replace the other half with blended cauliflowers.

Instead of traditional corn bread consider baking some whole grain dinner size rolls.

Serve a healthy salad and lightly dress it with a homemade extra virgin olive oil and vinegar dressing. This bowl is one of the few dishes that can sit on the table during mealtime for second helpings.

Lightly sauté the green beans, instead of making a traditional bean casserole and top with chopped walnuts for an extra burst of flavor, protein and healthy fat. Or start a new tradition and serve Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Sage.

When you make the candied yams, skip the marshmallows and margarine or butter and use ingredients like fruit juice, fruit puree, cinnamon spice, vanilla extract or pumpkin spice.

Whipped topping doesn’t have to be full of cream. You can now find lighter canned versions and versions made from soy.

Use Greek plain yogurt, silken tofu or skim milk mixed with powdered nonfat milk and “whipped” to cream up recipes.

Sugar is also lurking in many of the dishes you typically serve on holidays and especially at the Thanksgiving meal. Where is it hiding? Sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and the typical pies and desserts have loads of sugar. So do many canned goods like canned gravy, canned cranberry sauce, canned gravy, packaged pies and desserts, packaged frozen dinner rolls, and canned sweetened condensed milk, which can have a whopping 800 calories just from sugar.

Here are some tips to lighten the sugar load:

Cranberry sauce recipes often require loads of extra sugar added. Canned cranberry sauce has about 22 grams of sugar per slice (that means it’s mostly sugar). Cranberries are bursting with vitamins so consider these low sugar recipes: cranberry salsa, cranberry-citrus relish, or orange-cranberry sauce.

If you plan on serving any grain-based dishes, avoid “white grains” and consider trying some of the ancient grains in a recipe. Boost flavor with chopped vegetables, sautéed garlic or onions and fresh and dried herbs. Or use cauliflower as the base of a healthy “creamy” mashed potato substitute.

Instead of candied yams, why not make a Maple-roasted Sweet Potato dish, low in sugar and fat? You can have a sweet dish sans all the sugar!!

Use fruit purees in lieu of oils when baking. Fruit purees work well in muffins, cakes, and brownie recipes.

If you typically make an apple crisp or pie loaded with added sugar, consider swapping out for baked apples made with raisins, cinnamon and a bit of apple juice. You can serve each baked apple with a small scoop of fat free ice cream or yogurt.

Make fruit the centerpiece of dessert with bite-size treats on the side. You can offer some melted dark chocolate dipping sauce as an added treat.

Avoid drinking your calories and choose iced or hot unsweetened teas and zero calorie flavored waters. Unsweetened chai tea is a perfect accompaniment to the Thanksgiving meal. You can use stevia as a sugar alternative.

Some other quick tips:

Find some cookbooks that offer lighter recipes or use an online search. There are hundreds of recipes that offer swap outs for some of the more calorie and unhealthy fat-driven recipes you typically cook.

Have some family activities planned between the main meal and dessert so guests have a chance to digest the meal and “feel full.” That will help to curtail overeating dessert.

Make Thanksgiving about family and friends gathering together to share the joy and spirit of the holiday!!

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