By Katherine Dempsey
Thanksgiving dinner comes with all the trimmings, but a tasty feast can still leave a trim waistline. Sit down to a guilt-free meal – without giving up the flavorful food. A Chicago chef and dieticians highlight ways to eat right on Turkey Day.
Quinoa and wild rice
Packaged stuffing can go heavy on the salt and the calls for butter, too, said Chicago registered dietician nutritionist Sara Haas, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Instead of bread stuffing, quinoa or wild rice can work as a good side dish with low-sodium chicken broth and white wine to boost flavor, she said. Plus, you can add your own salt to quinoa or wild rice. “This way you can kind of control how much salt goes into your food,” Haas said. What’s more, quinoa is a protein with “essential” amino acids, and wild rice contains antioxidants, she said.
For one cup of quinoa, Haas recommends using two cups of chicken broth or 1.5 cups of broth and half a cup of white wine. For one cup of wild rice, give it 3 cups of broth or 2.5 cups of broth and half a cup of white wine. Haas suggests applying carrots, celery and onions. Dried or fresh herbs like rosemary or sage work, too, she said, as well as one bay leaf. Wait to add fresh herbs until the food has cooked.
Turkey breast is best
Purchase stand-alone turkey breasts rather than the entire bird. The breast contains less fat and cholesterol, Haas said. If you still want a full turkey, try buying a smaller bird and a separate breast.
Rather than using Crisco, lard or heavy whipping cream in cooking, look for butter or margarine with more mono- and polyunsaturated fats (“healthy” fats) and less saturated fat, said Torey Jones Armul, a Chicago registered dietician nutritionist, also representing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Saturated fat is tied to higher cholesterol as well as heart disease, but good fats promote healthy hair, skin and nails, she said. Good fats also help regulate hormones and research has tied them to greater release of hormones that help you feel full, she said.
Whole wheat, not white
Get an extra dose of fiber from whole-grain bread crumbs, rather than white crumbs in stuffing or scattered on casseroles or meat. And, use whole-wheat flour rather than white flour. Simple carbohydrates are processed more, and that gets rid of the outer part of the grain that contains fiber, Armul said.
Replacing vegetable oil or butter with pumpkin puree works well when making desserts, Armul said. Not only is pumpkin puree low-cal, but it also contains little fat and it contributes fiber and protein, she noted. Plus, it’s high in Vitamin A, an immune-system promoter. If your recipe requires a cup of vegetable oil, use a cup of the puree instead.
Double-crusted pie weighs in with lots of sugar and fat, Haas said. Opt for a crostata – a one-crust dessert. If you don’t make dough, refrigerated dough from the store works, she said. Roll out it so it’s thin. It’ll feed more people and cut down on crust, which means fewer carbs and less sugar and butter. Peel and core three or four large, tart apples. Slice them thinly. Toss in some pomegranate seeds or cranberries; they provide an attractive and good-for-you touch. Toss your blend in a bowl with a teaspoon of cinnamon and one-eighth of a teaspoon of nutmeg. Try two tablespoons of brown sugar; if it’s not sweetened to your liking, feel free to use extra.Pour the concoction on the rolled-out dough, allowing at least 1.5 inches of dough that you can fold over. Then, bake for around 30 minutes at 400° F.
Brandon Brumback, sous chef at Chicago’s Acadia, says his restaurant will serve a five-course, non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which starts with squab turkey consommé and finishes with pumpkin beignet. He recommended a healthful dish his aunt makes every year for Thanksgiving – sweet potatoes with soy milk and all-natural maple syrup. The syrup (natural sugar) stands in for brown sugar, and soy milk has less fat than butter or cream, Brumback said.
Simply peel and cut the sweet potatoes and cook them in a pot until “mushy,” Brumback said. Add soy milk and mix, then add maple syrup and mix. Move everything to a casserole dish and add more maple syrup on top. Broil in the oven at 475-500°F until a golden-brown crust has formed.