You may already know that heaping helpings of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner can add a full pound to your frame all by itself. That’s because a pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories, and nutrition experts clock the traditional turkey plate with all the sides at a whopping 3,000–4,500 calories.
That may not sound so bad, until you realize that most people’s daily caloric requirements fall right around 2,000 or less. And a 160-lb. person would need to walk 45 miles to work off 4,500 calories.
However, just because you’re trying to stay healthy this holiday season, you don’t have to forego flavor or satisfaction. A few simple substitutions and tips can help you trim fat and calories from your holiday spread and let you enjoy the bounty of tasty holiday fare.
Most recipes that call for whole milk, such as mashed potatoes, can be made with skim milk or low-fat milk instead. Low-fat and no-fat versions of cream soups, cheeses, sour cream can substantially slash the calorie load of beloved side dishes like green bean casserole. With a bit of planning, you can cut both calories and fat without cutting taste or serving sizes.
Fresh cranberries are packed with vitamin C and germ-fighting phytochemicals. These healthy little bacteria-busters can add a lot of flavor without many calories, but canned cranberry sauce is loaded with sugar and preservatives. By making your own relish from scratch, you can control the sugar content.
Try swapping whole grain breads for the plain white or cornbreads many recipes call for, or add a few cups of wild rice for more nutritious and chewy side dish. You can also replace some of the bread with a hearty squash or sweet potatoes to lighten the calories and enhance the fall flavors. Also, use egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs, and forego nuts and bacon.
For many baked goods, you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil. It maintains the moist texture of muffins and sweet breads without all the saturated fat, while leaving the flavor virtually the same.
In addition to being a fire hazard, deep-frying turkey adds a lot of fat to an otherwise lean protein. Roasting in a specially made plastic bag helps to keep natural juices inside the bird. Choose a natural turkey rather than a “butter-basted” variety. And when you’re creating your plate, stick with white meat, which is lower in fat than dark meat. Avoid the skin if you can, or limit yourself to just a bite.
Try adding substantial salads, broccoli or Brussels sprouts, and some colorful oven-roasted squash. Vegetables that are high in fiber are naturally filling and high in vitamins. They also have a great deal of eye appeal of your plate. Just be sure to keep added salt, butter and oil to a minimum. And skip the marshmallow fluff when you’re making yams or sweet potatoes—a light drizzle of honey or natural maple syrup can highlight the natural sweetness, not drown it.
While dinner is cooking, infuse some water with cucumbers, lemon, apples or oranges. Not only does infused water taste great, but it’s a healthy alternative to some high-calorie, high-sugar beverages like beer, wine, soda and juice.