Try this fruit-filled dessert instead of
the traditional array of pies this Thanksgiving -- you'll be amazed
how many calories you'll save without knowing it.
Christine Palumbo, a
mother of three, is a registered dietitian in Naperville and
an adjunct faculty member at Benedictine University.
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Around this time of year, the media seem to
constantly remind us of the calorie excess of Thanksgiving. Is it
really that bad or can you eat healthfully while still enjoying a
traditional Thanksgiving dinner?
If you think about it, individual components of the
traditional Thanksgiving table score pretty high in nutrition. A
meal built around turkey, veggies and cranberries can be nutrient
dense and low in calories.
Turkey. White meat sans skin
provides more protein per calorie than almost any other meat. A
3-ounce serving-about the size of a deck of cards-provides just 120
calories and 26 grams of protein.
Think dark meat is verboten? Think again. A 3-ounce
serving of thigh meat provides just 135 calories. Either type is a
source of iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and B
Gravy. Depending on the
skill of the cook, homemade gravy can either be fatty or lean. But
cooks who "cheat" by using jarred or canned gravy are actually
doing you a favor since it's virtually fat free.
Dressing. Make this
healthier by sneaking in extra veggies, such as chopped onions,
celery, leeks and shallots. Instead of sweating them in butter, use
broth. Include whole wheat bread for at least half of the bread
Sweet potatoes. These tubers
are loaded with beta-carotene, potassium, fiber and vitamin C and
also provide magnesium, phosphorus, choline, iron and calcium for
just 90 calories per half cup. Try scraping off the marshmallows
and butter if they're served that way.
Cranberries. These gorgeous
red orbs contain anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin,
resveratrol, selenium and vitamins A, C and E.
Green beans. Prepared
without soup mix or butter, they're a good source of vitamin C at a
calorie cost of just 22 per half cup.
Brussels sprouts. These
little cabbages are high in vitamin C and a good source of folate
and beta carotene, as well as a myriad of
Mixed nuts. Nuts contain
protein, healthy fat and plenty of antioxidants, so crack away when
the nut bowl gets passed. For example, walnuts are a particularly
high source of melatonin, a compound linked to good
Pie. Even dessert, such as
pumpkin or apple pie, can provide nutrients. Pumpkin provides beta
carotene, while apple contains quercetin, both powerful
antioxidants. To minimize calories, eat just the filling and skip
In general, nothing should be off limits. As you know,
it's all about portion size. Encourage children to sample whatever
appeals to them and talk about how yummy the healthier foods
Diane Sowa, MS, RD, assistant director for clinical
nutrition at Rush University Medical Center and a mother of two
boys, advises making Thanksgiving Day a day to remember by keeping
She also suggests making Thanksgiving an active day. "Get
the kids involved by making some homemade 'hand-turkey' invitations
with details about signing up for a Turkey Trot." She encourages a
family touch football game before dinner, followed by a walk after
With a little advance planning and tweaks in the usual
schedule, Thanksgiving can be a day of healthful eating and
activity to burn it off.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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