Nutrition articles by Alyssa Simon, RD

Simple Swaps for a Healthier Thanksgiving

on November 8, 2012

On Thanksgiving, the average household has many traditional holiday staples; turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. These foods, while delicious and (mostly) occasional, are not typically nutritious. According to the Calorie Control Council, an average Thanksgiving dinner can pack around 4500 calories and 229 grams of fat! By making simple swaps with your cooking methods and food choices, you can cut back serious calories, fat, and sugar, and bump up the nutrients.


TURKEY: Choose skinless white meat to save calories and fat. Meat with skin on it will contain more calories and fat than meat without skin, and dark meat contains more calories than white meat. 4 oz of skinless white meat, which is found in the breast, contains about 158 calories and .4g of saturated fat. Skinless dark meat (thighs, wings) has about 183 calories and 1.6g of saturated fat.


STUFFING: Make your own stuffing for a less processing and additives. Packaged stuffing is often high in sodium and fat, and cooking it in the turkey increases the fat content. Make your own stuffing use whole wheat bread for more fiber and B-vitamins, add cranberries for antioxidants, and use vegetable broth over chicken for more nutrition! To get started, check out this Vegetarian Stuffing Recipe.



MASHED POTATOES: White potatoes get a bad rap for being unhealthy, but potatoes are actually a good source of fiber and vitamins. It is how the potatoes are prepared that makes them healthy or not! Rather than adding sour cream, butter, and heavy cream, give your mashed potatoes a makeover with plain low-fat Greek yogurt , buttermilk (buttermilk is lower in fat and calories than whole milk), or skim milk. Add freshly diced garlic and chives for extra flavor and nutrients! If you’re looking for a low-starch choice, try mashed cauliflower! It provides a creamy texture with even more nutrients.


SWEET POTATOES: Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber and beta-carotene, a precursor for vitamin A. Turning sweet potatoes into fattening pies and creamy casseroles cancels out those nutrients, so try roasting the potatoes with olive oil and rosemary.


ROLLS: Many frozen roll dough is heavy on the fat and low in nutrients. Look for already-prepared whole wheat rolls for extra fiber and vitamins, or even make your own if you have time!

GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE: Green bean casserole, made the traditional way with canned cream of mushroom soup and canned French-fried onions are high in sodium and fat. Using frozen green beans over fresh can give you more nutrients, and baking your own onions with whole wheat bread crumbs can save you fat and calories. Look for a lower sodium cream of mushroom soup, or try out this recipe for a homemade low fat, low sodium soup!


CRANBERRY SAUCE: Cranberry sauce is typically either made from fresh cranberries, or is jellied and canned. Either way, most cranberry sauces are loaded with sugar. You can make a homemade cranberry sauce from fresh or frozen cranberries, and use a natural fruit juice (like orange juice or cranberry juice) for a lower sugar and healthier option. Zest in fresh orange for even more flavor.

PUMPKIN PIE: Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, but pumpkin pies are high in fat, sugar, and calories. Look for a crust that does not have hydrogenated oils in it, or make your own! Use Greek yogurt and egg whites as thickeners in the pie, and maple syrup for a sweetener. Try out this recipe for a healthier pumpkin pie!

Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

One response to “Simple Swaps for a Healthier Thanksgiving

  1. I will have to keep these in mind for this year’s Thanksgiving! Thanks for sharing :)

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