Gobble gobble! Turkey time is just around the corner, and we are so excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones while enjoying a feast. Now, we know that Thanksgiving is notorious for overeating. Stuffing ourselves to the brim with mashed potatoes, turkey with cranberry sauce, dressing smothered in gravy, and so much more. However, we are here to tell you that you can enjoy all the food while still putting a “healthyish” spin on some classics.
Thanksgiving Healthy-ish Meal Prepping
One of the keys to a healthier Thanksgiving is thoughtful meal planning and prepping. This means planning your Thanksgiving menu in advance, including a mix of traditional favorites and healthier options. Consider incorporating more vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your dishes.
Some easy switches and choices:
- Make homemade cranberry sauce to better control how much sugar is in the sauce
- Opt for white meat over dark meat for less saturated fat
- Don’t eat the skin on the turkey
- Make veggie-centric side dishes, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, sautéed green beans, or a colorful salad
- Use whole-grain bread or quinoa for your stuffing to increase fiber content and add nutrients
- Include mashed cauliflower as a lower-carb option to mashed potatoes
- Include healthier dessert options like a fruit salad, baked apples with cinnamon, or a yogurt parfait with fresh berries
- Have healthy appetizers ready to snack on like veggies and hummus before the meal
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Drink plenty of water before your meal
- Aim to stop eating before you feel over-full
- Roast the turkey versus deep frying
- Practice mindful eating by savoring each bite
Not only is planning important, but also remembering portion control. This can be done by using smaller plates and utensils to encourage portion control. It's easier to enjoy the flavors of your favorite dishes without overindulging. Take less food because you can always go back for more later!
Cooking the Turkey
As we mentioned above you should opt for roasting your turkey rather than deep frying it for a healthier option. The turkey is the star of the meal after all, so here is a breakdown of how to cook your Thanksgiving turkey:
- One whole turkey (size depends on the number of servings needed)
- Olive oil or melted butter
- Salt and pepper
- Optional: herbs and spices for seasoning (e.g., rosemary, thyme, sage)
- Roasting pan with a rack
- Meat thermometer
- Aluminum foil
- Basting brush or kitchen twine (optional)
If you've purchased a frozen turkey, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for several days (plan approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey). Make sure to follow USDA guidelines for safe thawing.
After thawing, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 1 hour before cooking. Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C).
Remove any giblets or neck from the turkey cavity. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Pat it dry thoroughly with paper towels.
Brush the turkey with olive oil or melted butter to help achieve a golden, crispy skin. Season generously with salt and pepper. You can also add herbs and spices for additional flavor.
Set a roasting rack inside a roasting pan. Place the turkey on top of the rack. This allows the heat to circulate evenly around the turkey, ensuring it cooks evenly.
Roast the turkey in the preheated oven. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your turkey. As a general guideline, plan for about 13-15 minutes per pound (e.g., a 12-pound turkey will take approximately 2.5 to 3 hours). Refer to the turkey's packaging for more precise instructions.
Some cooks like to baste the turkey every 30 minutes with pan juices or a mixture of broth and melted butter. Basting can enhance the flavor and keep the meat moist, but it's not necessary.
To ensure the turkey is cooked to a safe internal temperature, use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The turkey is done when it reaches 165°F (74°C).
After removing the turkey from the oven, tent it loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for at least 20-30 minutes. Resting helps redistribute the juices, making the meat more tender and flavorful.
Carve the turkey into slices and arrange them on a serving platter. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with your favorite sides and gravy!
It’s Thanksgiving – Enjoy!
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to express gratitude, connect with loved ones, and enjoy delicious food. By embracing healthy-ish meal prepping, making mindful choices, and cooking your turkey wisely, you can savor the flavors of the holiday while still prioritizing your well-being. Thanksgiving is just one day out of the year and while we encourage healthy options, plan to enjoy and indulge in moderation. Remember that Thanksgiving is not just about the food; it's about cherishing the moments and connections that make this holiday special. Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!