November 23rd, 2010
04:20 PM ET
It's that time of year again when some people try to take the fun out of Thanksgiving dinner by highlighting just how many calories the average American will be consuming in this one, very special meal. It completely overshadows the fact that the individual, traditional components of this feast have some true health benefits and with some simple techniques can be prepared in a tasty AND healthy way. It's worth a reminder of what we're eating (in moderation) is truly good for us.
You may not have to forgo the scrumptious skin either, suggests Lilian Cheung, editorial director of "The Nutrition Source" from Harvard's School of Public Health. "There is more monounsaturated fat than saturated fat in poultry skin. The skin adds calories, but there is more healthful fat in it than unhealthful fat. So it's OK to enjoy, if you like it," she tells CNN. Moore suggests having some, rather than a whole plateful of skin may be advisable. "If you roast your turkey on a rack most of the fat will drip down" says Cheung. Cooking Light magazine offers a recipe for the ultimate roasted turkey .
Consuming cranberries in liquid form may help prevent urinary tract infection (but not treat them as some might think). But for the traditional consumption of cranberries on this holiday, Moore suggests making your own chutney or sauce to make them healthier than the store bought version. "Prepare them with orange juice or you can even reduce the amount of sugar by half"," she says, which help keeps the sugar and calorie count down. Food Network chef Tyler Florence has a yummy recipe that does just that.
The beauty of this root vegetable is that it's already sweet, "so you have to add a lot to them to flavor them," says Moore. Simply roasting sweet potatoes in the oven will help the sugars inside caramelize and naturally sweeten this aptly named sweet potato. Harvard's health newsletter offers a slightly more decadent yet doctor-approved recipe.
Moore says there are ways to modify a traditional recipe: "Instead of whole milk, you can use evaporated skim milk [which] still provides a velvety texture." She also recommends cutting back on the butter by a half or a quarter and reduce the sugar by a half or a third.
If you can't do without the pie, Cheung says "you could use a whole grain pie crust," because whole grains are very good for heart health and regularity. Cooking Light suggests making a healthier pecan pie by putting healthier ingredients in, rather than taking not-so healthy things out.
Regardless of how you choose to modify your dishes to make them healthier, Moore suggests trying them out before the big day, so you're sure they are still as delicious as possible.
One more way to make your Thanksgiving healthy is to reduce the stress. For that you may turn to our colleagues at Eatocracy: They'll be live-blogging from Wednesday evening through Thursday mealtime, offering kitchen and hosting advice or offering a supportive shoulder and a laugh if you need it. Just leave a note in the comments or reach out on Twitter @eatocracy and they'll do the best to help you keep calm and carry on.
Cheung offers this final thought for you when you sit down for your Thanksgiving feast – practice "mindful eating." Slow down, reflect on how the food came to you.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.