This time of year is not only a time for friends and family but a time for food. Especially mouthwatering food and treats! While Thanksgiving dinner is something we all love to indulge in, those with dietary restrictions or those who simply want to make their meals a little healthier are always looking for more options. Remember that staying healthy does not always mean you have to sacrifice taste and flavor.

Stay tuned this month for healthy ideas to lighten up your Thanksgiving dinner, making it both healthy and delicious.

Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is centered around the tradition of having a golden brown and juicy turkey. On most tables, the turkey can be one of the healthiest selections available. A three-ounce serving of turkey served skinless, contains approximately 25 grams of protein, one gram of fat and zero grams of saturated fat, totaling 125 calories; it’s low in fat and high in protein. Thereby making turkey a healthy choice when, opting to leave the skin behind, thus saving about 30 calories per three ounce serving. Remember, portion sizes are important, stick to portions that are three ounces if cutting calories is your goal.

Bear in mind that healthy foods can rapidly change, depending on their preparation, they can quickly become a high-calorie, high-fat foods. Below you will find some cooking method comparisons enabling you to make the best choices for your thanksgiving celebration.

Deep Frying

Deep frying is delicious, no question about it! This cooking method creates an irresistibly golden brown, crispy skin. The down side of it is that the saturated fat is absorbed into the skin and it is believed that some is also absorbed into the meat as well; how much though is a matter of debate by many. Nonetheless, that aside, fried turkeys have proven to be higher in fat and calories.  This may not be the option for you if you are trying to choose healthier preparation options for your thanksgiving dinner.

Braising

When a turkey is seared, instead of frying just before braising, this gives your turkey a nice golden brown and crispy skin and locks in the moisture, keeping the meat juicy and full of flavor. This is just another delicious option that won’t add unwanted fat and calories!

Brining

This is a very common way to prepare turkey and is one my mom has done for years. The down side to this method is that it is high in sodium. Hence, this may not be a good method for those who need to watch their sodium intake.  Again, this is usually only an issue when your diet is high-sodium on a regular basis or if you have heart or kidney disease. Remember that excess intake of sodium is known to cause high blood pressure and fluid retention, thus increasing the risk for heart failure, stroke or kidney disease. For those who are not at risk, this method can bring lots of flavor to your turkey.

Smoking or Grilling

Now these are not only healthier options than frying but both of these methods will provide your turkey with a flavor that are palate pleasing. Grilling and smoking are both healthier methods than deep frying and crispy skin is still attainable without adding the excess fat and unwanted calories. Keep in mind that the charred skin can produce acrylamides which have been shown to increase the risk of cancer.  This is usually only a problem when consistently eating high amounts of charred foods. 

Roasting

Roasting a turkey is considered one of the healthiest methods out there as long as you don’t add butter under the skin which so many people do. Try to use fresh herbs for seasoning and limit your use of salt and this may be just the cooking method for your Turkey Dinner!

Choose the method that will make your family’s taste buds happy this holiday season.

It is our hope that this time of year you will find joy, as you spend time with friends and family. May we all hold in our heart the things we hold dear and may we ponder on the things we are most thankful for.

By Carrie Gustafson RDN, LD