November 25, 2014

Nancy Solomon

A Few Substitutions Transforms Thanksgiving Dinner

SLU Dietitian Proposes a Mini-Makeover for the Meal

ST. LOUIS -- Thanksgiving, the most anticipated meal of the year, doesn't have to leave you wishing you had worn your pants with the elastic waistband, says Amy Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

Amy Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics, suggests savoring a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables at Thanksgiving dinner. Photo by Riya V. Anandwala

"The only thing that should be stuffed is the turkey," Moore says. "Even with the special indulging, Thanksgiving can be a healthy meal. You can replace your multi-vitamin with a good spread of colorful foods on your Thanksgiving buffet."

As diabetes and heart disease have become more common, many holiday hosts are grappling with ways to make Thanksgiving dinner healthier.

Moore offers a few simple substitutions in a course-by-course playbook guaranteed to leave you feeling at the top of your game.

Appetizers: Instead of crackers and cheese, serve protein-rich shrimp cocktail or vitamin-packed fruit kabobs.

Salad: Serve the salad dressing -- something translucent like balsamic vinaigrette -- on the side and consider limiting the cheese. "If the vegetables all look like they're covered in creamy dressing and if you see more cheese than salad, you're getting extra calories."

Turkey: Dark meat contains more calories than white and is higher in fat, but also contains more iron and is moister. If you are ladling lots of gravy on your slices of turkey breast, you could be consuming as many calories as if you ate dark meat. So, consider going easy on the gravy, using a bit of cranberry sauce as a topper or eating dark meat if you like it better, but have a bit less dressing.

Stuffing: Load in the veggies such as celery, onions and mushrooms, fruits like apples and raisins and walnuts to add texture and a pop of nutrition. And, you can reduce the amount of fat in your stuffing and guests won't know the difference.

Vegetables: Keep it simple to let the natural flavors shine through. Veggie casseroles carry extra calories and are unnecessarily heavy when coupled with so many other rich foods. Broccoli kissed with lemon juice and sprinkled with a touch of parmesan cheese has fewer calories than a broccoli cheese casserole. To unleash the natural sweetness of vegetables, try lightly coating them with olive oil and roasting in a 450 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Dessert: Instead of serving pecan pie, consider a lighter tradition -- a trifle of angel cake layered with berries and whipped cream. Or serve slivers, not slices, of pie so guests can sample a few different kinds.

"Banish the brown and beige look of the traditional Thanksgiving -- turkey, dressing, potatoes, rolls and French fried onions on top of the green bean-mushroom soup casserole," Moore says. "Think color this season. Festive and colorful fruits and vegetables will give your dinner a make-over that is both beautiful and healthy."

Long a leader in educating health professionals, Saint Louis University offered its first degree in an allied health profession in 1929. Today the Doisy College of Health Sciences offers degrees in physical therapy, athletic training education, biomedical laboratory science, nutrition and dietetics, health informatics and information management, health sciences, medical imaging and radiation therapeutics, occupational science and occupational therapy, and physician assistant education. The college's unique curriculum prepares students to work with health professionals from all disciplines to ensure the best possible patient care.

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