With Thanksgiving fast approaching, many people are looking forward to a big turkey dinner with all of the ‘fixins’. But, how healthy is that dinner? And what are some healthier alternatives?

  • TURKEY- is a great source of high protein (along with fish and eggs) that is low in calories. Roast turkey is also low in cholesterol thereby making it a great choice for heart-healthy diet. Turkey is low in carbohydrate, thus improving the stability of insulin production after a meal. Roasting the turkey is much healthier that frying—which increases the cholesterol content significantly. Choosing white meat (such as the turkey breast) is healthier than red portions (such as thigh or wing).  Some people are concerned about the amount of tryptophan found in turkey. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is similar to Melatonin, and often helps people sleep.  Research has shown that the amount of tryptophan in turkey is actually no greater than that found in foods such as chicken, tuna or other meats. People who blame sleepiness after a large turkey dinner should consider that other foods that accompany turkey might be the culprit.
  • Dressing or stuffing—this is probably one of the highest calorie and fat options on the table. One single serving (one cup) of regular bread dressing has over 350 calories, 17 grams of fat and almost no protein—and that is just 1 cup!! In addition, stuffing is loaded with gluten, which has been shown to cause inflammation in the system. As an alternative, try fruit and nut “stuffing” – its both delicious and looks beautiful. Another option would be cauliflower rice or mashed cauliflower- the recipe can be found at http://paleoterran.squarespace.com/journal/2011/10/12/eat-this.html
  • Bread or biscuits—another high calorie, gluten rich side dish that can be avoided. Instead of bread or biscuits, how about substituting a rice cake? If you just have to have bread, reach for the gluten-free type.  Or you can just eliminate this side altogether and add another vegetable.
  • Cranberries—oh yes, that yummy side dish that may not be as bad as you thought! If you serve cranberries from a can, keep in mind that it is loaded with sugar and calories. Think about substituting fresh or dried instead of canned. Fresh cranberries are a wonderful addition to almost any table, and are one of the highest berries in antioxidants. Research has shown that fresh cranberries help reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections, help people with gum disease and help to reduce stomach ulcer formation. Fresh cranberries also contain Flavinoids which can help prevent heart disease. With zero fat and only 51 calories per cup, cranberries are a great choice!
  • Vegetables—almost any vegetable is suitable with turkey. Try steamed carrots, green beans or peas instead of canned. 2/3 of the dinner plate should be filled with vegetables. Also try fresh veggies as a side- such as celery hearts filled with hummus.
  • Desert—ok, everyone loves desert after a great meal… but think about some healthy choices. A small slice of pumpkin pie has over 300 calories and over 15 grams of fat—and that does not include the whipped topping!!  Instead, choose fresh sliced apples, sliced kiwi or a fruit salad. For a real treat, try high quality dark chocolate- which has antioxidants galore!
  • And after that big meal… go outside for a walk! Play ball with the kids or walk the dog. About 30 minutes of exercise will help digestion and ward off the feeling of bloating and tiredness.

 Start a few new traditions

  • Instead of cooking a big meal, volunteer you and your family to serve at the local soup kitchen
  • Take a meal to a shut-in or elderly person who lives alone
  • Offer to drive your elderly neighbor to church or a family gathering
  • Volunteer at your local nursing home to visit with the residents
  • Join a group of carolers at the local children’s hospital or nursing home
  • Volunteer at the local food bank
  • Take the money you would spend on a big meal and purchase a few coats/hats/gloves for the needy
  • Adopt a family – there are many families who do not have any food to eat

 “For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).