Turkey Time Tune Up

Holidays bring joy and food, lots of delicious food. Often times, though, this can raise some questions, especially when you’re trying to prepare the perfect meal to impress friends and family. Questions like: how should you cook, how should you serve, and, finally, how much? And in the era where everyone seems to be on a diet, do you stick with the original family favorites or do you opt for something healthier?

One of the most important things you can start with in planning your Thanksgiving meal is to not expect perfection. Instead focus on fixing a meal that you can be proud of and embrace making it your own with unique touches. To help you make the most of this Thanksgiving, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind to ensure you have a healthy and safe meal.

Take your time with turkey

Thawing: When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, we know that it’s all about the turkey. If you start with a fresh turkey, you don’t have to worry about thawing it in time to cook for dinner.

However, many of us may opt for the frozen turkey and if you do, make sure you stay safe in how you choose to thaw it. Never allow a frozen turkey to thaw at room temperature. Choose one of three thawing methods: the refrigerator, cold water or microwave.

Cooking: Whether you’re a roaster, fryer or smoker, there are a variety of options when it comes to preparing the turkey. Of course all of these options are delicious, but some may be more nutritious than others.

As a general rule, deep-fried turkey is the least healthy due to the oils that it is cooked in; even with a short cook time, the oil is still absorbed. Smoked turkey is slightly healthier, but still has its drawbacks as it contains carcinogenic compounds called HCAs, which are produced during the smoking process. And last but not least, roasted turkey is far in a way the healthiest option, especially if you skip the butter and the skin (which is where the extra fat is).

Serving: Turkey is a very healthy meat with several notable nutrients, including DHA omega-3 acids, protein, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. However, if you consume the high fat portions of turkey, like dark meat and the skin, the fat may outweigh the nutritional benefits. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the different servings of turkey:

Dark Meat with Skin: 3 oz, 175 calories, 8.4 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 89 mg sodium, 23 g protein

Light Meat with Skin: 3 oz, 150 calories, 4.73 g carbs, 86 g sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 25 g protein

Dark Meat without Skin: 3 oz, 147 calories, 5 g fat, 88 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar 23 g protein

Light Meat without Skin: 3 oz, 108 calories, 1.8 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g carbs, 88 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 23 g protein

Here’s the skinny on other holiday favorites

Gravy. A turkey breast won’t provide a lot of juice, so add some nonfat chicken broth. To thicken, start with a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch dissolved in a half cup of cold water. Stir it with a whisk. Add chopped mushrooms if you prefer having a giblet texture.

Vegetables. Instead of adding things to your vegetables, let them be themselves. Steam the beans and use fresh-cut veggies as an appetizer tray, maybe with a little low-fat dip. And everyone’s favorite, sweet potatoes — hold the marshmallows, please — are a great way to add color to your plate.

Dessert. Skip the big pies and do a tray of mini-tarts or petit fours from a bakery or the freezer. These smaller portions will allow everyone to enjoy sampling different types while keeping the serving size small.

Helpful hints you’ll want to remember

The great plate debate. Consider using 8-inch plates and leaving the 10-inch china in the cupboard. Smaller plates will help people choose smaller portions without having to think about it.

Fuss less. Cleanup is easier with throwaway foil roasting pans. Aluminum foil makes a perfect cover to keep your turkey breast from over-browning and your outside-the-bird stuffing from drying out.

Planning your menu. Shoot for quality, not quantity. You don’t need more food than your family and guests will eat or more leftovers than you can enjoy. As you plan the menu, ask what they’d miss if it weren’t there. No need to waste time cooking something that no one will miss.

Cater to your needs. The importance of nutritious and delicious choices shouldn’t stop with Thanksgiving. Your diet has an impact on everything from how you feel, to how you look, and most importantly, your overall health.

To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your diet, the registered dietitians at Gwinnett Medical Center can help. With nutrition consultations, Diet by Design and metabolism testing, you will discover your best diet to make a positive difference in your health.

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