Thanksgiving Food Made Healthy, Healthier and Healthiest

Simple substitutions for fitting this year's Thanksgiving feast into your fitness goals.

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Catch a whiff of a perfectly browned, juicy turkey roasting in the oven on Thanksgiving Day and your mouth starts to water as your mind floods with memories of awkward family dinners past when your grandpa fell asleep in his mashed potatoes and your cousin announced he was dropping out of school to become a clown. None if it mattered by the end of the evening, of course, because you had stuffed yourself with so much complex carbohydrates that you could barely open your eyes or zip your pants. Whether you decide to go all-out with a traditional Thanksgiving spread, or you’re looking for ways to consciously consume calories, we’ve got you covered. We asked nutrition expert Leah Kaufman, M.S., R.D which ingredients in these classic Thanksgiving dishes to substitute or exclude altogether to make your belly-busting meal healthy, healthier or healthiest.


Traditional Roast Turkey with Mediterranean Rub

12 servings Per serving: 605 calories, 35 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 65 grams of protein

  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) Butterball® Fresh or Frozen Whole Turkey, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup ground dry lemon peel
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

KAUFMAN SAYS: Turkey is naturally a lean source of protein, but it’s advisable to remove the any excess skin to reduce fat further. The biggest concern to Kaufman is the amount of salt in the dish. “This entire recipe has four times the amount of recommended salt servings per day,” she says. Kaufman recommends cutting the amount of salt in half and adding more of the flavored herbs such as rosemary, oregano and parsley. OUR ADVICE: Healthy: Remove excess skin from meat and cut 60 calories per serving. Healthier: Remove excess skin and cut salt in half, sparing nearly 5,000 mg of sodium. Healthiest: Eat white meat only (cuts 30 calories), remove excess skin, use only a pinch of salt and exclude sugar.   NEXT: Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

8 servings Per serving: 253 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 34.2 grams of carbohydrates, 5.7 grams of protein

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 7 baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

KAUFMAN SAYS: Mashed potatoes are naturally calorie dense, particularly in carbohydrates. “I have substituted potatoes for cauliflower, which is delicious! Over the course of the day you will eat enough starch, and switching to cauliflower really cuts down on carbs and calories,” Kaufman suggests. She also recommends substituting whole milk for skim to reduce total fat. “This will not only cut down on all the fat, but specifically saturated fat,” she says. Butter is another tasty killer in this recipe because of its high saturated fat content. “You can also substitute the butter for trans-fat-free margarine to decrease (saturated) fat,” she says. For creamy mashed potato fans who want to enjoy the texture without the added fat of regular cheeses, Kaufman recommends trying Laughing Cow Cheese. OUR ADVICE: Healthy: Replace whole milk with skim (cuts 30 calories) and exclude the cheese (cuts 27 calories). Healthier: Replace whole with skim, exclude butter (cuts 27 calories) and cheese (cuts 26 calories). Healthiest: Replace potatoes with cauliflower (cuts 160 calories), replace whole milk with skim, exclude butter and cut the cheese.   NEXT: Grandma’s Stuffing

Grandma’s Stuffing

16 servings Per serving: 333 calories, 13.6 grams of fat, 7.8 grams of saturated fat, 47.4 grams of carbohydrates, 6.1 grams of protein

  • 7 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup butter, melted and divided
  • 2 (1 pound) loaves white bread, torn into pieces
  • 1 1/2 medium onions, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons dried summer savory
  • salt and pepper to taste

KAUFMAN SAYS: Considering how high in carbs this dish is, Kaufman advises switching breads. “I would exchange white bread for 100% whole wheat bread to increase fiber,” she says. The added fiber will promote satiety, which will prevent overeating. Similar to the mashed potatoes, the use of butter increases the saturated fat content. “I would substitute the butter for olive oil. One tablespoon of butter equals two teaspoons of olive or vegetable oil,” she says. OUR ADVICE: Healthy: Swap white bread for wheat bread (increase fiber from 0.5 grams to 2 grams). Healthier: Swap white bread for wheat bread and replace butter with olive oil (cuts 4 grams of saturated fat). Healthiest: Swap white bread for wheat bread and exclude butter/oil completely (cut 72 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat).   NEXT: Candied Yams

Candied Yams

12 servings Per serving: 334 calories, 5.4 grams of fat, 2.1 grams of saturated fat, 72.5 grams of carbohydrates, 3.7 grams of protein

  • 2 (29 ounce) cans sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 (16 ounce) package gingersnap cookies
  • 1 (16 ounce) package miniature marshmallows

KAUFMAN SAYS: Yams are another high carbohydrate food typically prepared with canned sweet potatoes. Kaufman says that using fresh yams may increase the preparation time needed for the dish, but it’s worth the reduction in salt. She also points out that gingersnap cookies and marshmallows are obvious culprits of unnecessary sugars and fats. “Season with ground ginger instead of using the cookies and try to add some cinnamon to increase flavor. Studies show that cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar,” she advises. In this dish, she also mentions substituting butter with olive oil to decrease the amount of saturated fat. OUR ADVICE: Healthy: Use fresh sweet potatoes (reduces salt and sugar). Healthier: Use fresh sweet potatoes and exclude butter (cuts 16 calories). Healthiest: Use fresh sweet potatoes, exclude butter, exclude gingersnap cookies (cuts 10 calories) and exclude marshmallows (cuts 8 calories). Calorie Saver Information by   NEXT: Rich Turkey Gravy

Rich Turkey Gravy

6 servings Per serving: 99 calories, 8.7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 0.8 grams of protein

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, or more if needed
  • 1/4 cup turkey drippings
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes

KAUFMAN SAYS: Gravy lovers shouldn’t fret too much when dousing their side dishes. Kaufman says, “It’s not bad.” However, she does recommend being mindful of how much flour is added, as it can quickly boost carb content. She advises using a bit more water and cutting back on the flour by 1/4th. OUR ADVICE: Healthy: Be sure to use a fat separator on your turkey drippings. Healthier: Use more water and 1/16 cup of flour (cut 19 calories) Healthiest: Use more water and replace flour with a fiber thickener like not/Starch. ——— Roasted Turkey Dish provided by Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Yams and Gravy provided by

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