5 Simple Ways to Make Your Turkey Dinner Healthier

by | Updated: October 13th, 2020 | Read time: 3 minutes

4,500. That’s the number of calories the average American consumes on Thanksgiving. This is along with 229 grams of fat, according to the Calorie Control Council.

Luckily, you don’t have to eat that much to enjoy this over-indulgent holiday. Whether you’re sacrificing a few creamy, long-time favorites or bringing more vegetables to the table, there are plenty of ways you can make your turkey dinner healthier. Use these five ideas to avoid eating two days worth of food in one meal.

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1. Take it easy on dessert

While turkey, gravy, potatoes and dinner rolls aren’t exactly shining examples of nutrition, it’s the dessert table that likely poses the most danger to your diet. After all, with an incredible spread of pies, pastries and other sweets, it’s not hard to justify indulging.

One simple solution is to stick with just one or two crowd favorites like apple and pumpkin pie, for example. This helps you and your guests avoid the urge to “sample” everything, which results in overeating. It’s also important to be on portion control patrol by cutting pie slices thinner, making smaller cookies and using smaller dessert plates.

Finally, take a little breather between dinner and dessert. It takes a little time for the brain to register that the belly is full. If you and your diners are feeling full, you’ll eat less.

2. Consider a meatless Thanksgiving

If you’re a fan of “Meatless Mondays,” this will be a great option for your turkey dinner. Not only can the occasional meatless meal help to prevent chronic illnesses like heart disease, it also helps reduce our carbon footprint.

Create a smorgasbord of tasty, veg-friendly dishes. Sneak in some extra non-meat protein, like a vegan “turkey” loaf, and your guests will be more than impressed. If you’re too nervous to go turkey-less altogether, prepare a smaller turkey and let guests decide if they want to go meatless or not.

3. Go organic

There are a lot of reasons to choose organic foods. Unfortunately, if you buy every item on your holiday meal prep list in the organic section of the market, you’ll find that the final cost is a little higher than usual. For example, non-organic turkey ends up costing, on average, $5 per person, versus organic, which comes out to a little more than $10 per person, according to a recent turkey pricing analysis.

To decide what foods you should purchase organic, turn to the dirty-dozen list. This list, which is updated every year, shares the foods that are best to buy organic because of their high pesticide content.

For your turkey dinner, pluck these dirty dozen items from the organic aisle:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Spinach

4. Give your guests options

It’s hard to choose healthy options when the decisions have already been made for you: salty mashed potatoes, green bean casserole with creamy mushroom soup and turkey smothered in butter-rich gravy.

Instead of preparing everything as you normally would, leave as much up to your guests as possible. For example:

  • Make dairy-free mashed potatoes, and provide butter and salt on the side. Or, take it a step further by making mock-mashed potatoes out of cauliflower.
  • Roast or steam green beans, leave out the “casserole” and provide mushroom gravy and fried onions to put on top.

Supplement these dishes with other healthy options like gluten-free quinoa bread and a side of farro.

5. Get off the couch

In addition to a meal, plan some healthy movement for the day. Set up a pre-dinner game of touch football in your backyard, get a group together for morning yoga before the big feast, or sign up for a turkey trot. This popular race, which is usually a 5K distance, happens throughout the country on Thanksgiving Day.

With a few small changes, you can make your turkey dinner healthier for you and your guests. You’ll be thankful when your healthy New Years resolutions kick in.