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Cut the Calorie Guilt out of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving should be a time of celebration. A time of remembering all of the things we have to be thankful for, but while enjoying traditional foods with our family and friends, we still have ways to limit the extra fat and calories. Here are some ways to lighten up Thanksgiving without losing that flavor punch.

1) Instead of fattening hors d’oeuvres cheese platters before an already filling meal have platter of blanched mixed veggies and salsa, hummus, whole wheat pita bread, dry roasted nuts.

 2) My favorite roast turkey recipe is a wonderfully lower calorie, lean meat. You don’t need to baste the turkey in butters or fry it for it to taste delicious. Rinse and completely dry turkey with a paper towel and place on roasting rack. Here’s my trick: ¼ cup Lower Sodium Chicken broth with 1 tbsp of olive oil and combination of fresh herbs/dried herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary), salt, and pepper, 1 lemon zested. Mix together in a small bowl like a turkey paste and massage mixture onto turkey. Place turkey in over (uncovered) in 475 F oven for 45 min (if turkey is over 16 lbs. it will take a longer time for skin to get golden brown), this creates a crunchy outer skin. At this time, loosely cover turkey with aluminum and then reduce oven temp to 350 F. Continue roasting until turkey juices are clear in bottom of roasting pan (internal cooking temp of 165 F). Always rest cooked turkey 45 min before slicing to keep juices intact.

3) Gravies are usually loaded with saturated fat from the creams. If you still want the creaminess in homemade gravy, prepare it with mostly 1% milk and only 1-2 tbsp. of heavy cream or half in half.

 4) Check for fantastic biscuit recipes that use fewer than 4 tbsp. of butter for the entire recipes….and they’re even flakier than recipes with more fat.

 5) Casseroles like sweet potato casserole can be prepared with partly evaporated milk instead of all butter and sugar. Top casserole with meringue instead of marshmallows (just about any recipe can afford to have less butter than what a recipe suggests).

 6) Take the extra time to make stuffing from scratch. It’s worth it. Stock up on a combination of old loaves of bread a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I like to use a variety (cornbread, whole wheat, ciabatta, Italian). This way you are not using a version straight out of a box with added fats and sodium.

 7) Desserts: prepare cheesecakes with 1/3 less fat cream cheese. Try whole wheat pastry crusts for pies for added nutty flavor.

 8) Not every vegetable has to be in a casserole form. Demonstrate for your kids and rest of the family that a Thanksgiving table can have 1 or 2 steamed vegetables as well!

9) Take a relaxed walk outside with your family for 30-45 min after the meal and then return home for dessert! Chances are you will be too full to eat dessert right after the meal so get some blood flowing and enjoy precious time with your family.

 Also check USDA’s site on turkey food safety and cooking facts.

 With great thanks during this Thanksgiving Season,

 Amanda L. Harshman, RD, LD