Low Fat Thanksgiving

Tuesday, October 4, 2011
If the thought of all that Thanksgiving feasting leaves you worried about eating too much fat-laden food, or simply overeating, here are some tips to help you enjoy Thanksgiving without expanding your waistline. Remember, many of the traditional foods served during Thanksgiving are perfectly healthful. It’s what we do to them that loads them with extra calories and fat. Let's look at the basic foods at the center of the feast:
  • Turkey has little fat, is full of protein and is an important source of B vitamins. Your best bet is turkey breast, but be sure to remove the skin first. A three-ounce serving of skinless turkey breast has about 120 calories and 1 gram of fat. If you choose to eat dark meat instead, a three-ounce skinless serving delivers around 160 calories and six grams of fat (two grams of which are saturated). Here's a simple yet flavorful recipe for a low-fat Thanksgiving Turkey.
  • Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and fiber. Leave out the butter and excess sugar. Use orange juice and a sprinkling of brown sugar for flavor instead. Try these low fat Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Limit your portion size to no more than half a cup.
  • Regular potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Lose the butter and heavy cream in Mashed Potatoes, and use either reduced sodium, fat-free chicken broth or fat-free milk and sour cream instead. Flavor with garlic, fresh herbs and ground black pepper. Again, keep your portion size small.
  • Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C, and contain compounds that are believed to block certain bacteria that cause infections. Add oranges to make Cranberry Orange Sauce and you add even more vitamin C. Or, for a slightly different cranberry sauce, try this delicious Cranberry Apple Sauce.
  • Pumpkin is a terrific source of beta-carotene and fiber. Enjoy a lighter crust Pumpkin Pie by using phyllo dough. Use egg whites, or egg substitute, and fat-free evaporated milk in the filling. Or try this light and flavorful Crustless Pumpkin Pie instead.
  • Vegetables should be steamed or roasted rather than slathered in butter or cheesy sauces. Skip the fried onion rings on top of the green bean casserole or dispense with the casserole altogether and top your green beans with heart-healthy toasted almonds or walnuts instead, and use vinaigrette dressings or herbs for flavor. Enjoy some sweet Glazed Acorn Squash Rings, some Sauteed Green Beans, some Roasted Carrots and Parsnips, or some Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts.

So now you can see how to enjoy the basic foods at the center of the Thanksgiving celebration. That leaves us with gravy and stuffing, which are notorious sources of fat and calories. Make a lower fat gravy by straining the fat from the drippings (a fat separator makes the job easier), and using cornstarch or a sprinkling of flour as thickening agents rather than a butter and flour roux. Add extra flavor to your gravy by using herbs and wine. You can make a low fat stuffing by omitting butter, using fat-free broth and, say, lean turkey or chicken sausage instead of pork sausage. Omit sausage altogether if you like, and use meaty mushrooms and extra vegetables instead. Try portion-controlled stuffing by making stuffing muffins.

As for appetizers, have plenty of fresh vegetables on hand. Use low-fat or fat-free sour cream and yogurt for dips. Delicious low-fat dips can include Spinach Dip or some salsas, including this Mango Black Bean Salsa. Have homemade baked pita chips or tortilla chips to go with them. Nuts and dried fruits make great snacks, too.

Finally, don’t starve yourself beforehand. You will likely eat more if you’re super-hungry. That means don’t skip breakfast; do fill up with whole-grain crackers, fruit and raw vegetables if hunger pangs strike before the big feast, and do drink plenty of water.

When the time comes to sit down to your Thanksgiving meal, you will be ready to enjoy it without overdoing it.

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