Thanksgiving is a time for the whole family to gather around the table and enjoy a home-cooked meal. Unfortunately, most of the food that shows up on the holiday dinner menu rarely fits into any dieting hopes we’ve had for this year. The majority of us tend to consider Turkey Day our one big cheat day of the year. While we all deserve one day to indulge after a year’s worth of dieting and trips to the gym, the degree to which we indulge can make all the difference in how we recover from our post-Thanksgiving dinner food coma. Here are five Thanksgiving menu options you may want to avoid or at least cut down on this year:
1. Deep-Fried Turkey
Make no doubt about it. Anything deep-fried spells trouble for any would-be dieter. The deep-fried turkey fad has caught on with many daring Thanksgiving hosts. As this new twist on traditional roasted turkey has come into the Thanksgiving spotlight, many southern cooking aficionados have come out of the woodwork in support of fried food. When food is fried, the amount of fat it absorbs during cooking increases. The food absorbs even more fat when the temperature of the oil drops too low, it spends too much time in the fryer, or when there is too much food stuffed into a single fryer. As you can imagine, stuffing a 10- to 16-pound turkey inside of a single deep fryer takes up a lot of space and takes longer than usual to thoroughly cook.
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without the quintessential turkey and side of stuffing. Although it is considered a staple of any holiday feast, that doesn’t mean we should all go out and get stuffed on stuffing. When you think about it, how can any of us expect to stay within our dieting limits if we gorge on a dish that consists mainly of bread, butter (or margarine), and in some cases sausage. Now that’s a lot of carbs. A cup of your average bread stuffing will set you back 175 calories. Add in sausage, and you’re staring down the barrel of 400 calories per cup side dish and a week’s worth of regret. Bring something healthy to the dinner table this year by switching white bread to whole wheat and sausage to cranberries and Granny Smith apples.
When the gravy boat comes your way, it’s best to practice moderation. It’s the fat and juices from turkey drippings — what did you expect? Add in a little all-purpose flour or cornstarch to thicken up the texture and a quarter cup of turkey gravy will run you over 100 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 145 milligrams of sodium. Surprisingly, gravy is the healthier option compared to jellied cranberries with its high sugar content. For a healthier turkey and mashed potato topping, switch out white flour or cornstarch for low-carbohydrate thickeners, such as whole wheat, oat, or barley flour.
4. Green Bean Casserole
Don’t let the green beans fool you. Butter, canned cream of mushroom soup, canned French-fried onions, and fried green beans equals a prominent holiday dish filled with calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Just half a cup of traditional green bean casserole can add up to around 100 calories and 7 grams of fat. To ensure your green bean casserole isn’t passed up by health dieters, avoid the salt-laden cream of mushroom soup and try steamed green beans instead of fried.
5. Pecan Pie
Pecans are nuts, so pecan pie has to be healthy, right? Yes, pecans alone are a good source of health fat and fiber. Pecans mixed with sugar, butter, and refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, make for the unhealthiest stop on the dessert line. A single slice of pecan pie at over 500 calories could prove to be your worst dieting decision this Thanksgiving, and that’s without a scoop of vanilla ice cream. For healthier pecan pie recipes, opt for low-fat butter, egg whites, and light corn syrup.