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.
The Big 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. 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.
- VIDEO: Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
- How to Cook a Turkey
- Grilling & Smoking Turkey
- Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes
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 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.
Instead of using butter and cream to mash potatoes, save the cooking water when you boil of the potatoes. The starchy water will give the potatoes a creamier texture than plain water would.
You can also add turkey or chicken broth, evaporated skim milk, or fat-free sour cream. For extra flavor, stir in roasted garlic and herbs. For added nutrition, add pureed cooked cauliflower, parsnips, or turnips.
Dressing, not Stuffing
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. Avoid recipes using sausage or bacon; wild rice and grains are more nutritious than bread stuffings.
Scrap the traditional dessert-style candied sweet potato casseroles in favor of a low-fat, naturally-sweetened dish. Try a cranberry relish or cut down on the amount of sugar in your cranberry sauce by adding fruit juices or apple sauce.
- Onion Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Honey
- Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta Cheese
- Cranberry Apple Sauce
- Cranberry Sauce with Apricots, Raisins, and Orange
Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie
Most of the fat in a pie comes from the crust. Try a reduced-fat graham cracker crust or our crust-free pumpkin pie recipe.