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Release Date: 11/25/2013

Eat healthier at the holidays without giving up traditional favorites

Registered Dietitian Lisa Galati shares ways to make old favorites without blowing your diet - Listen to her interview on KMOX.

The holiday season is about to kick-off with Thanksgiving. Chances are, you are either looking forward to all the great food that will be placed on your Thanksgiving table – or you are dreading what the huge traditional meal will do to your diet routine. Either way, St. Anthony’s Medical Center registered dietitian Lisa Galati has some great ways to help you enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving meal in a healthier way.


“With a little modification of our Thanksgiving recipes that are traditionally higher in fat, sugar, salt and calories, we can make our favorite foods healthier. Most recipes can easily be made with less of these ingredients,” said Galati.

Some of the modifications are as simple as baking the turkey instead of frying it, using low-fat or fat-free ingredients wherever possible, and cutting one-third to one-half the amount of fat or sugar in any recipe.

Some other modifications you can make:

  • Use a low fat, low sodium broth base for gravy
  • Use skim milk for mashed potatoes
  • Use lots of pepper & garlic instead of salt in mashed potatoes
  • Offer sweet potatoes as another healthy & nutritious option
  • For the adventurous, blenderize cauliflower instead of mashing potatoes
  • Use wild rice & whole grain in stuffing
  • Avoid adding sausage or bacon to stuffing
  • Bake stuffing in a casserole dish instead of inside the turkey
  • Fortify the stuffing with chopped vegetables or fruit
  • Use fruit juice or applesauce instead of sugar in the cranberry sauce
  • Use pepper, garlic and fresh onions to add flavor to green beans
  • Use low fat, low sodium soup in green bean casserole
  • Eliminate or use less bacon & fried onions in green bean casserole
  • Serve whole grain rolls
  • Unsweetened tea and water flavored with lemon are good drink choices
  • If you are going to drink an alcoholic beverage, choose wine or a low calorie beer
  • Avoid sugary mixed drinks, sodas and sweetened teas
  • Use one-quarter less sugar in the pumpkin pie
  • Use a graham cracker crust in the pumpkin pie

See the list of other modifications that can be made to any recipe.

“Many people are so accustomed to the taste of sugar, fat and salt, that unless they taste those flavors, they think a food tastes different and immediately say they don’t like,” said Galati. “But, you will actually be able to taste the natural flavors in your food.”

Many of us will not be making the Thanksgiving meal ourselves. Instead, we’ll be dining on the food cooked by a gracious host. Galati says there are other actions you can take to avoid overstuffing yourself with loads of extra calories.

“Don’t skip meals and arrive at the party overly hungry. You might even consider having a light snack with a protein food, like cheese and crackers, before leaving for the party.” Galati adds, “Decide ahead of time your plan of action. Envision what you are going to eat and how much. Eat only those items that are your favorites. And then, don’t hang out at the food table.”

If you do feel like you want to overindulge a bit, there are smarter ways to do it. “Gravitate towards those foods that have the least amount of fat added. And limit the usually high sugar, high calorie desserts,” said Galati. “If you really aren’t hungry but are going to go back for more anyway, the lean turkey may fill you up sooner. Or consider more salad if it is not loaded with dressing.”

Another Thanksgiving tradition is all the leftovers tempting us to continue our unhealthy eating for several more days. Galati points out several healthier ways to use those leftovers. Turkey can be added to soup or a turkey noodle casserole. Mashed potatoes can be used instead of crust for a healthy turkey pot pie. Cranberries can be added to oatmeal or be used to make salsa. Remember, it is okay to throw away the unhealthy leftovers; and get rid of all leftovers after four days.

Galati reminds us all, “Every day counts when it comes to your heath and that includes Thanksgiving.”

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