Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes Article -
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Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that's lower in fat and calories but still thrills the crowd isn't hard. All it takes is a few ingredient substitutions and some clever fat-busting techniques.

The Big Turkey

If you're 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. And--it goes without saying--stay away from the deep fryer this year, and roast or smoke the turkey.

Stuff the turkey cavity with whole or halved onions, halved lemons or apples, and sprigs of fresh herbs such as sage, marjoram, thyme, and/or rosemary.

Rather than rubbing the skin with butter or oil, spray it with an oil spray and season it with salt and pepper.

Good Gravy

Gravy is one of the biggest calorie culprits on the table. Use vegetable oil rather than turkey drippings when making the gravy--it's still fat, but oil is lower in saturated fat and is cholesterol-free.

If you use turkey drippings to add flavor, use a gravy separator. Pour the gravy into a separator and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Some of the fat in the gravy will rise to the top of the glass where you can skim it off easily.

Better yet, make a low-fat broth-based gravy or a vegetarian gravy instead.


Instead of using butter and cream to mash potatoes, save the cooking water when you boil of the potatoes. The starchy water will give the potatoes a creamier texture than plain water would.

You can also add turkey or chicken broth, evaporated skim milk, or fat-free sour cream. For extra flavor, stir in roasted garlic and herbs. For added nutrition, add pureed cooked cauliflower, parsnips or turnips.

Dressing, not Stuffing

Bake the dressing in a casserole dish rather than in the turkey, where it absorbs fat from the turkey as it bakes. It's hard to slim down a stuffing recipe, so take a small serving if it's your Thanksgiving favorite. Avoid recipes using sausage or bacon; wild rice and grains are more nutritious than bread stuffings.


Slimmed-down Sides

Scrap the traditional dessert-style candied sweet potato casseroles in favor of a low-fat, naturally-sweetened dish. Try a cranberry relish or cut down on the amount of sugar in your cranberry sauce by adding fruit juices or apple sauce.

Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie

Most of the fat in a pie comes from the crust. Try a reduced-fat graham cracker crust or our crust-free pumpkin pie recipe.

Nov. 4, 2009 11:37 am
I'm so glad to see some healthy hints for holiday festivities. My husband and I eat mostly vegetarian meals, and we've tried to cut down on 'unhealthy' choices - I'm the one who eats a bite of chicken or fish now and then!
Nov. 4, 2009 3:28 pm
As a registered dietitian who tries to help people make healthier choices without sacrificing taste and enjoyment, I am thankful for this article. It has given me some helpful tips to pass along.
Linda Higgins 
Nov. 8, 2009 12:51 pm
I married into a family that rices the potatoes. We now all own a potato ricer, which is a sieve kind of implement with a mechanism to smash the potatoes through the sieve. The honor of ricing the potatoes goes to one of the young folks. It gets put in a pottery bowl and sprinkled with a little paprika on top. Very healthy!
Nov. 9, 2009 12:37 pm
Thanksgiving is always an interesting holiday for the vegetarian. My husband and I both don't eat meat and have found that even the meat substitutes aren't very healthy, so we've become major advocates of tofu. It's light, can be replaced and seasoned and braised and friend and cooked in so many fashions, the possibilities are endless. Tofu is a great way to cut down on overloading, especially during the holidays.
Nov. 12, 2009 2:13 pm
My husband is a MEAT AND POTATOS boy from Iowa. So... I must be very creative when cooking lower calorie, fat, cholesterol, sodium, et al (especially for the holidays). Thank you for the ideas you've given and keep them coming. I will definately use some this Thanksgiving (after I shoo him from the kitchen)!
Nov. 15, 2009 9:49 am
I've read a few comments advocating the use of Tofu instead of meat. While I am a vegetarian, and absolutely do not eat meat, I do eat some meat substitutes, but Tofu can be equally as bad for you. Tofu is a heavily processed food loaded with chemicals to preserve and up-the taste. If you are eating tofu to be healthy, make sure you do your research on it before you decide it is the way to go. After battling severe migraines for years on end, once I stopped eating soy and tofu (doc recommendation) the headaches are virtually gone. The doctors say it wasn't a soy allergy, but rather my body reacting to the chemicals and preservatives used in tofu! I had no idea! :) ... peace, love, & veggies! <3
Dec. 22, 2009 6:40 am
This is very interesting, making dishes low in fat and calories, but the food was delicious and enjoyable for all. Such dishes should not only served at Thanksgiving, but also at other times so that we remain healthy. I have not eaten meat too much. My wife and I now stay healthy, despite our age is more than 50 years. (
Nov. 1, 2010 11:50 am
I started my Healthy lifestyle in the beg of 2010. I am glad to see that I can enjoy the holidays and keep it healthy. ;-D
Nov. 5, 2010 2:33 am
Have to agree with the tofu caution. It is not fermented soy and therefore not good to consume frequently. Many folks are sensitive to soy and gluten and are totally unaware. Do some research on these processed foods. You won't be sorry and you will be much more healthy if you follow the research.
Nov. 18, 2010 3:32 am
I am definitely going to try the Dr's method of degreasing pan drippings!
Nov. 21, 2010 7:35 pm
My God, Thanksgiving happens once a year, so please just indulge this one time. You never know: a car could run you over or you could lose your sense of taste (hey, it could happen!). FYI, I am a 135 pound, 5 foot 9' male and I easily eat 2500-3000 calories a day (if not more), but I do an hour + of vigorous exercise/athleticism everyday which is all one really needs). Instead of caloric restriction, just be more active throughout the day. My blood pressure is 105ish over 65ish, and my sugar levels are around 75. I eat tons of fruits, veggies, almonds, white meats, and I splurge now and then. To the people neglecting whey protein (the vegans)- you're hurting your bodies! We evolved as creatures needing meat- don't eat that tofu garbage; it's just not natural, lol.
Nov. 25, 2010 3:32 pm
I think moderation is the way to go. As long as everyone follows the Canada Food Guide rules there is no reason not to eat a well-rounded meal three times a day. I am diabetic and have a heart condition and must keep all my ducks in a row when it comes to eating and keeping my blood sugar on track. It is a balancing act...but I cannot see myself doing without in any area of my diet. I keep my sugars to a minimum, but I still eat from all the food groups. It is a balancing act...but isn't everything in life that? Keep all foods in perspective and you life and tummy will be happier. Take care all.
Sherry L 
Nov. 8, 2011 4:40 pm
Well for those of us who struggle with weight and low metabolism, it is very helpful to find ways to "trim the fat". If you are not looking for healthier ways to have Thanksgiving dinner, why are you even reading this article? Also some have stated on here Thanksgiving only comes once a year so indulge and enjoy. So do all the other fun holidays associated with some type of over indulgence on food. There is Halloween and the fun candy that go along with that, Easter dinner after church, Can't have Mother's Day without celebrating with a big meal, oh and who can go to the ball park and not enjoy a ball park frank,or brat and a beer, can't go to the fair and not enjoy a funnel cake and a corn dog, it only happens once a year, right? Christmas and the breads and candy you get throughout the month of December from friends and co workers. Christmas only comes once a year. Barbcues and cookouts for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day,ONCE A YEAR! All your friends and families birt
Sep. 29, 2013 10:39 am
I really appreciate any recipe that cuts fat and calories. With a population growing more rotund as we speak, cutting back on the things that could kill us prematurely is not only wise, but a must!
Jan. 28, 2014 6:11 am
recipe for cranberry stuffing
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