If you'd like to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year, but reduce the amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol, calories, additives, preservatives and other unhealthy nutrients, smart shopping can make the difference. Reading nutrition labels, using substitute ingredients and buying organic and whole foods all let you prepare family favorites without many of the less-healthy ingredients. Write your dream menu first, use traditional recipes, then look at each ingredient to see how you can substitute or buy healthier.
Cooking a whole turkey is not only time consuming, but an entire bird contains more saturated fat and cholesterol than just the breast. A turkey breast is the leanest part of the bird. Consider purchasing one or more turkey breasts and serving them without the skin this year. Look for free-range turkey or organic meat that has no growth hormones, preservatives, food colorings or other additives.
While potatoes are a good source of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin C and vitamin B6, they're often prepared and served with butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon, making the saturated fat and cholesterol content soar. Start with russet potatoes for easier mashing. Prepare mashed potatoes with low-fat or fat-free ingredients such as skim milk, vegetable stock, a butter substitute, garlic and herbs. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and a butter substitute to sweet potatoes. Check the labels of any butter substitutes to avoid trans fats. Use just enough sugar to slightly sweeten the potatoes. Leave the skins on for added taste, dietary fiber and nutrition.
Start with whole grain breads for stuffing, looking for those that have little or no trans fats. Substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock and add apples and raisins for sweetness and celery and onions for savory flavor. Consider adding brown or wild rice to decrease your reliance on the bread. Moisten with a low-fat butter substitute for flavor and fewer calories.
Use the drippings from your turkey for a savory gravy, but remove the fat before making your gravy. Add flavor by adding the dripping from roasted vegetables and herbs to your stock. Thicken with skim milk and corn starch for a low-sodium, low-fat gravy.
Instead of drowning green beans in a cream sauce or mushroom soup, let your guests taste fresh beans with a lighter side dish. Add golden raisins, sesame seeds and low-fat Parmesan cheese for a nutritious dish that adds sweet, savory and crunchy elements to vegetables. Steam the green beans rather than boiling, suggests the website Whole Living, which offers an interesting preparation for this dish that includes adding tea bags to the steaming process and rice wine vinegar and sesame oil as healthy finishers.