Statistics indicate the average Thanksgiving dinner exceeds 3,000 calories. That is more calories than a person should eat in an entire day, much less a single meal. Many people admit to indulging on bigger portions and more fattening foods come the holiday season, but choosing some lighter fare this Thanksgiving can make the meal healthier without sacrificing taste.
Although there are staples of Thanksgiving dinner, many low-calorie foods can be included to make the meal healthier. The following are a few healthy substitutions or alterations holiday hosts can make when preparing their Thanksgiving feasts.
• Trim down the turkey. Play up the main course with aromatic seasonings or unexpected flavors. Use garlic, olive oil and basil to add a boost of flavor to turkey without having to rely on butter or salt. Marinate the bird with lemon juice and citrus marmalade for a sweet, yet pungent flavor. Consider omitting the bread stuffing and making a stew of roasted root vegetables instead.
• Opt for turkey breast. White meat of a turkey tends to have less fat and calories than the darker cuts. Serve turkey breasts only, which will not only cut down on calories, but also on the amount of time needed to cook the meal.
• Make homemade cranberry sauce. Taking the time to make your own cranberry sauce means you can control the ingredients. Cut down on the amount of sugar used in the recipe or substitute it with honey or molasses.
• Reduce the number of courses. Thanksgiving dinner often features multiple courses. Extra courses can be expensive, but such massive spreads also lead many people to overeat. Stick to two or three courses, and chances are guests will not miss the extra food.
• Choose whole-grain breads. Sliced whole-grain breads or rolls paired with an olive tapenade will be flavorful and such breads are healthier than white bread and butter.
• Flavor vegetables with herbs. Vegetables grilled or sauteed with fresh herbs may be so flavorful they will not need added dressings that tend to be rich or cream- or butter-based. Have a wide variety of vegetable side dishes available so guests can fill up on healthier fare rather than more calorie-dense items.
• Serve only low- or no-calorie drinks. Beverages can add a substantial amount of calories to Thanksgiving meals. Give guests the option of sparkling water or even diluted cider so they’re not filling up on sugary sodas or other high-calorie beverages.
• Serve fresh fruit for dessert. Create a fresh fruit salad that can be served in lieu of fatty cakes and pastries.
• Include other activities. Do not make the meal the centerpiece of the celebration. Plan activities, such as a game of football in the yard or a walk around the neighborhood. This places a smaller emphasis on eating while giving guests the opportunity to burn off some of their meal.