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How To Make Your Thanksgiving Menu Healthier

Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that's lower in fat and calories but still thrills the crowd isn't hard. All it takes is a few ingredient substitutions and some clever fat-busting techniques. Let's take a look at how to make a delicious, healthier Thanksgiving meal.

The Turkey

If you're hosting a small gathering, buy a turkey breast rather than the whole bird, as breast meat is lower in calories than dark meat.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

"This is simple and delicious, and certainly not rocket science," says naples34102. "No need to really add anything or change anything other than the cooking time -- mine was done perfectly at 5-1/2 hours. The meat is tender, juicy, and delicately seasoned."

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Photo by Lori

Cranberry Stuffed Turkey Breasts

"This one is a keeper," raves momof4. "I make it every thanksgiving instead of the whole turkey -- it turns out beautifully every time! Very pretty presentation, too!"

Cranberry Stuffed Turkey Breasts

Photo by lutzflcat

If you do buy a whole turkey, avoid "self-basting" turkeys, as they often contain added fat. And, it goes without saying, stay away from the deep fryer this year, and roast or smoke the turkey. Stuff the turkey cavity with whole or halved onions, halved lemons or apples, and sprigs of fresh herbs such as sage, marjoram, thyme, and/or rosemary. Rather than rubbing the skin with butter or oil, spray it with an oil spray and season it with salt and pepper.

Guilt-Free Gravy

Gravy is one of the biggest calorie culprits on the table. Use vegetable oil rather than turkey drippings when making the gravy -- it's still fat, but vegetable oil is lower in saturated fat and is cholesterol-free.

If you use turkey drippings to add flavor, use a gravy separator. Pour the gravy into a separator and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Some of the fat in the gravy will rise to the top of the glass where you can skim it off easily. Better yet, make a low-fat broth-based gravy or a vegetarian gravy instead.

Lightning Gravy

"This is awesome because it's low fat, low cal, (for gravy!) and quick," says Drunken Cookie. "I added a black pepper and a small pinch of ground sage."

Lightning Gravy

Photo by Marianne

Here's how to make vegetarian gravy.

Slimmed-Down Sides

Instead of loading up your mashed potatoes with lots of butter and cream, add some of the starchy water you used to boil the potatoes. The starchy water will give your mashers a low-cal creamy texture and help cut back on fat.

You can also add turkey or chicken broth, evaporated skim milk, or fat-free sour cream to your mashed potatoes. For extra flavor, stir in roasted garlic and herbs. For added nutrition, add pureed cooked cauliflower, parsnips, or turnips -- or replace the potatoes entirely with Mashed Parsnips or Mashed Turnips.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower

"This was good and a great way of adding extra veggies into a meal," says Manda. I had mine along side some corn and stuffing. It was the perfect accompaniment and easy to make."

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower

Photo by bd.weld

Scrap the traditional dessert-style candied sweet potato casseroles in favor of a low-fat, naturally-sweetened sweet potatoes. Try a cranberry relish or cut down on the amount of sugar in your cranberry sauce by adding fruit juices or apple sauce.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta Cheese

"These were absolutely fabulous," says susiekew. "We aren't fond of sweet potato dishes that have a lot of added sugar, so this was really to our taste."

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta Cheese

Bake the dressing in a casserole dish rather than in the turkey, where it absorbs fat from the turkey as it bakes. It's hard to slim down a stuffing recipe, so take a small serving if it's your Thanksgiving favorite. If you can avoid recipes using too much sausage or bacon; wild rice and grains are more nutritious than bread stuffings.

Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing

LivinOurLuvSong. "I left out the sausage and used veggie broth. I baked it in a pan and it was perfect."

Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Photo by alexandra5

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Most of the fat in a pie comes from the crust. Try a crust-free pumpkin pie recipe or a reduced-fat graham cracker crust.

Pumpkin Pie Squares

"This is a great recipe," raves LAURA J JOHNSON. "It makes homemade pumpkin pie much easier and it tastes great."

Pumpkin Pie Squares

Photo by CC


Check out our complete collection of Thanksgiving Recipes.


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