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Thanksgiving is known for quality time around the table with friends and family — and for its large portions of indulgent dishes.
It is easy to overeat when faced with so many delicious foods. In fact, research suggests the average Thanksgiving meal contains a whopping 3,000 to 4,500 calories, which is far more than the average man or woman needs in an entire day.
Here are some tips and tricks to lighten up some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes — so you can impress your friends and family with a feast that's as nutritious as it is delicious.
Sugar provides texture and tenderness to baked goods such as muffins and cakes. However, baked goods often contain a lot of sugar.
Cutting the sugar in your recipe will save you excess calories without compromising your dessert. Start by reducing the sugar by one quarter. If you're satisfied with the taste and texture, try cutting the sugar in half. This can save you approximately 200 to 400 calories (for ¼ cup and ½ cup of sugar, respectively) per recipe.
And remember: If you also replace oil with yogurt, applesauce or prune puree in your recipe, you'll be adding some natural sweetness, which can help offset the missing sugar.
For example, if the recipe calls for ½ cup oil, use ¼ cup of applesauce or yogurt. This swap can save you approximately 900 calories and 50g of fat.
Applesauce and yogurt aren't the only substitute for butter or oil: You can also use prune puree. In fact, some cookbooks suggest that prune puree is the best substitute for fat in chocolate baked goods, such as cakes and brownies, because of its rich color and flavor.
You'll also save calories and fat by eating white meat instead of dark: 3 ounces of white meat has 115 calories and 0 grams of saturated fat vs. 160 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat for 3 ounces of dark meat.
But whether you prefer light or dark meat, always watch your portion size and — as tasty as it may be — don't indulge in the skin, which adds both calories and saturated fat to the meal.
As with the turkey, don't overindulge: Stick with a small scoop of potatoes, and don't have seconds.
Some cookbooks suggest that prune puree is the best substitute for fat in chocolate baked goods, such as cakes and brownies, because of its rich color and flavor.
Swapping at least half of the all-purpose flour for spelt (a nutty-flavored ancient grain in the wheat family) or whole-wheat pastry flour in your baked goods provides fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium while still providing a light and fluffy texture. Just note that you may need to add a little more liquid when substituting whole grains in a recipe.
Substituting brown rice or whole wheat pasta in casseroles is another way to enjoy your favorite dishes while packing in more fiber and micronutrients.
But perhaps the best way to get more fiber is to eat more vegetables.
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