Which Thanksgiving Dishes “Stuff” Your Body Best & Worst?

Thanksgiving feastThanksgiving is famous for a few key ingredients: family, football, and food. With so much to be grateful for, it seems a shame to worry about what’s on your plate, right?

Worry isn’t necessary, but a little awareness is a good idea, because research shows the average American may eat up to 4,500 calories and 229 fat grams on Thanksgiving Day!

Those figures from the Calorie Control Council might shock you, but considering the high fat content of many traditional dishes on the table, along with drinks, desserts and seconds on your favorites, it’s not so surprising. (PS: That doesn’t include breakfast…)

But it’s not all bad! The holiday only comes once a year, and you deserve a chance to enjoy the homemade food on the table. Some dishes pack more of a nutritional punch than others, and they also come at less of a “cost” in terms of fat, sugar, and calories.

Take a peek at our list of “Best Bets” and “Watch List” choices for your Thanksgiving celebration this year, so you can have your pie and eat it, too!

Also, come to our Healthy Holiday Eating Seminar on Tuesday, November 25th to learn even more ways to minimize the hazards of eating and drinking your way through the season, from Thanksgiving dinner through to your toast on New Year’s Eve! See your club for seminar times.

Thanksgiving Best Bets

Green Veggies: Your table is bound to feature green beans, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli, right? Hopefully, you can load up on roasted, steamed or lightly sautéed versions instead of casseroles drenched in cheese sauce or cream soups. All the green veggies will deliver fiber and a variety of vitamins and antioxidants.

green beans Turkey Breast: Thankfully, the main attraction is also good for you. A fine source of lean protein, turkey is a flavorful meat—and hopefully yours will stay nice and moist. Skipping the skin will save you a lot of fat and calories. Sticking the with breast gives you a bit less fat as well. Also, you don’t need to baste with butter to get a delicious golden brown bird! Mayo clinic offers this recipe for a Herb Rubbed Turkey Au Jus, which also gives you a lovely alternative to heavy gravy.

Sweet Potatoes: Go for baked or roasted, or a light sweet potato mash, versus the casserole that features brown sugar and mini-marshmallows on top. Sweet potatoes are a rich addition to your Thanksgiving plate, and actually provide sweetness all on their own. Plus they’re filled with Vitamin A, which is good for skin, vision and muscles.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce: When it’s made with whole berries, some citrus, perhaps a little spice like clove or cinnamon, and just a dash of sugar to take the edge off, cranberry sauce is a healthy, vibrant condiment you shouldn’t pass by. This is not the jellied stuff from the can, though—there is much more nourishment offered in whole cranberries, including cancer-fighting and infection-fighting properties.

Thanksgiving Watch List

Gravy: Homemade gravy made from pan drippings is high in fat—nearly all of it saturated. It has a bit of protein leftover from the turkey, but there aren’t many other nutrients. ¼ cup can add nearly 300 calories to your meat and potatoes. Canned gravy is much lower in fat and calories, but offers little to no nutrition. It’s best to limit your gravy.

Or, cook a healthier gravy: try a make ahead version with turkey wings that allows you to chill, skim the fat, and use stock for flavor.

Mashed Potatoes: They go so well with the gravy… or butter. Usually, there is a fair amount of butter in the potatoes. Some moms make them with cream, too. The richer the potato, the more calories and fat they bring to the plate. Go easy. Or make your own lighter version.

Low-carb folks: use mashed cauliflower instead!

pie Stuffing: Well it hardly seems like Thanksgiving without stuffing beside the turkey. But a traditional version might have a lot of butter, or even sausage. If you top this starchy side dish with even more gravy, you can end up with a few hundred calories of bread, fat and salt.

A great alternative: make stuffing with fruit, like apple, which helps it stay moist so you can use less butter.

Pie: Pumpkin, pecan, apple… they all have pretty healthy base ingredients to start out with. It’s the heavy doses of sugar, butter and refined flour that make Thanksgiving pies go astray. A slice of pecan pie is the worst offender, with about 500 calories, 27 grams of fat and 64 grams of carbs. Pumpkin is a little better, and apple is too, until you start adding ice cream and whipped cream.

Better bet: a simple, tart, apple crisp.