A Healthy Harvest of Celebrations

Thanksgiving brings memories of family gatherings, festive meals and wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen. But did you know that a typical Thanksgiving or other festive holiday meal can contain between 2,000 to 5,000 calories? Don’t despair! With proper planning, you can enjoy your holiday feast with family and friends – and still stay focused on your weight-loss and exercise goals.

Here are some healthy “weighs” to help you modify your holiday recipes, enabling you to celebrate a delicious, guilt-free Thanksgiving feast without packing on the pounds. Your taste buds, heart, arteries – and your guests – will thank you!


Make your Thanksgiving feast a celebration of the harvest by focusing on vegetables, fruits and whole grains. When properly prepared, they offer a colorful cornucopia filled with flavor and nutrition. If you are invited as a guest, offer to bring a healthy, nutritious vegetarian dish so you will have something you can enjoy without guilt. Here are some simple suggestions:


Dark orange vegetables such as squash, pumpkin and sweet potatoes make perfect additions to a Thanksgiving feast. For an attractive presentation, serve puree of squash or pumpkin soup in a hollowed-out pumpkin that has been heated at 350°F for 20 minutes.


Why not try a grain-based salad for a change? Combine cooked brown rice or whole wheat couscous with chopped peppers and scallions, raisins or dried cranberries and apricots. Add a handful of chickpeas, some minced dill or basil, and equal parts of extra-virgin olive oil and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper.


Serve steamed green beans or broccoli topped with chopped red peppers, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and minced fresh dill. Top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, toasted almonds or walnuts.

GARLIC MASHED TWO-TATOS: Combine 4 peeled, cut-up potatoes, 3 or 4 peeled, cut-up sweet potatoes and 4 cloves of garlic in a saucepan. Cover with salted water and boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash well. Add 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and enough fat-free chicken broth or soy milk to moisten. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. For extra color and flavor, add a 10 oz. package of cooked, chopped spinach and mix well.

CRANBERRY GLAZED CARROTS: In a saucepan, boil 2 lbs. baby carrots in boiling salted water until tender-crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well. Add 1 tsp. olive oil, 1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce, 2 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. lemon or orange juice, plus salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes longer, until nicely glazed and piping hot, stirring occasionally.

Turkey is an excellent, low-fat choice for your meal. However, self-basting turkeys have been injected with fat under the skin, so it’s best to avoid these kinds. A 12 lb. turkey will serve 12 adults, with leftovers. Take a look at some more turkey tips below:

Never defrost turkey on the kitchen counter. Instead, place the turkey in its original wrappings on a tray in the refrigerator and calculate 24 hours for each 5 lbs. of turkey. If it is not completely thawed when you are ready to prepare it, place the wrapped turkey into a sink filled with ice-cold water. Be sure to replace the cold water every half hour.

For maximum flavor, season the turkey a day or two before cooking it. Squeeze the juice from two oranges over the defrosted turkey, as well as inside its cavity. Then, lift the skin and rub the meat with fresh garlic and your favorite herbs and spices. Place additional slices of orange under the turkey skin to keep the turkey moist during cooking. The turkey can be seasoned, covered and refrigerated for up to two days.

Roast the turkey on a V-shaped rack in a shallow roasting pan so that the drippings can drain away during cooking. Lightly spray the rack and pan with nonstick cooking spray. If using a disposable foil pan, buy the heavy-duty kind. Place the roasting pan on a baking sheet to provide support so you won ’t burn yourself trying to remove it from the oven.

To prevent breast meat from drying out during cooking, cover turkey loosely with a foil tent. Remove the foil during the last 30 to 45 minutes of cooking so the turkey will brown. Roast the turkey with its skin on to keep the meat from drying out, and instead of using the fatty drippings, baste turkey with fat-free broth or fruit juice (orange, cranberry or apple) during cooking. Start roasting it breast-side down, then turn it breast-side up for the last half hour. Remove the skin when serving.

Test for doneness: Insert an instant-read or meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the turkey’s inner thigh muscle. The temperature on the thermometer should read 175° to 180°F when the turkey is completely cooked. A 10 to 12 lb. turkey, without stuffing, will take about 3 to 3 1/2 hours to cook at 350°F. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with foil to keep it warm and let it stand for 20 minutes for easier slicing. An electric knife makes carving easier. If you remove the skin before serving, you will save about 5 grams of fat per three-ounce portion. White meat, without the skin, is the lowest in fat.

Leftovers: Leftover turkey can be stored for a day or two in the refrigerator, or can be frozen for 4 to 6 months. Remove meat from the carcass; refrigerate or freeze it in meal-sized packages. Be sure to label and date the packages. The turkey carcass can be used to make a terrific turkey broth. Place the carcass in a large pot, cover with water, add cut-up onions, celery and carrots, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Add salt and pepper.

You can use the broth and some of the leftover turkey to make a terrific Turkey Chowder (there is a recipe for broth, too)!


This year, don’t stuff the turkey – or yourself! Instead, bake the stuffing in a separate casserole so it won’t absorb the fatty drippings from the turkey during cooking.

Add some broth or water to the roasting pan and scrape up the browned particles from the bottom. Pour the pan juices into a gravy separator – the fat will rise to the top. Pour out the fat-free liquid from the spout at the bottom of the cup. If you don’t have a gravy separator, pour the pan juices into a container and place it in the freezer while you let the turkey rest before carving it. The solid fat that congeals on the top of the pan juices can be skimmed off and discarded. If desired, add a little cornstarch to the
defatted pan juices, bring to a boil and simmer until thickened.

Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but the crust is a major source of fat and calories. Make a crisp, low-fat crust by combining 1/2 cup graham wafer crumbs, 1/2 cup ginger snap crumbs, 2 tbsp. canola oil and 1 or 2 tbsp. orange juice. Bake 6 to 8 minutes at 350°F. You can reduce the fat content in the filling by substituting evaporated skim milk or soy milk instead of cream, and using egg beaters instead of eggs. One quarter cup of egg beaters replaces each egg. Diabetics or those who are carb-challenged can replace the sugar with Splenda. To save on carbs and
calories, omit the crust.

A colorful fresh fruit platter is guaranteed to please your eye, palate – and waistline! Include purple and green grapes, cut-up melons, kiwis, assorted berries and mango slices.

Push yourself away from the table before you are more stuffed than the turkey was! No buts about it – get off your butt and help the hostess with the dishes. You’ll burn off some calories and also do a good deed.

Remember, the fork lift is NOT an aerobic exercise. Have a happy Thanksgiving and eat in good health!

For a fabulous finale to your holiday feast, try this terrific, fiber-packed fruit crisp. You can use frozen berries directly from the freezer without defrosting them first. For diabetics or those following a low-carb eating plan, substitute granulated brown sugar Twin for sugar. Enjoy…


2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 cups blueberries, strawberries or raspberries (fresh or frozen)
4 large apples, peeled, cored & sliced
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. lite margarine or canola oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Spread evenly in a sprayed 9″ deep pie plate. Combine topping ingredients and carefully spread over filling. Bake at 375°F for 35 to 45 minutes, until golden.

Makes 8 servings.
222 calories, 3.2 g total fat (0.5 g saturated), 0 g cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 49 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 3 g protein.