American Heart Assoc. tips for a healthier thanksgiving

Tribune staff reporter

November 26, 2008


Wallingford, CT -- As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the American Heart Association wants to provide you with some simple ways to make your big meal as healthy and delicious as possible. Many of the traditional foods served during Thanksgiving can be healthy - just avoid the butter, cream and sugar.

When planning your Thanksgiving Day meal (and all the leftovers), try this:

1. Start small.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, the biggest concern is not just WHAT you're eating, but HOW MUCH. You can enjoy a variety of favorite family recipes if you have small portions of high-calorie foods such as casseroles and desserts and fill up on lighter fare such as vegetables and lean turkey.

2. Talk turkey.

Turkey is a great source of lean protein. It's healthiest if you skip the skin and just eat the white meat. If you prefer the dark meat, mix and match to get a little extra flavor without adding too much fat.

3. Be sweet on sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. They can make a tasty side dish or dessert. A healthy way to prepare them is to cut them in half, sprinkle them with orange juice and a little brown sugar, and pop them into the oven.

4. Kick the canned cranberry.

Cranberries are packed with antioxidants that can help keep you healthy. Unfortunately, canned cranberry sauce is also often packed with sugar and calories you don't need. Try making your own by mashing fresh cranberries with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar or apple juice concentrate.

5. Pick a pumpkin.

Pumpkin is low in fat, low in calories, and loaded with potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Make pumpkin pies with canned, evaporated fat-free milk, half the amount of sugar in the recipe, a graham cracker crust, and light or fat-free whipped topping for a light and tasty dessert.

6. Stuff with more veggies and less bread.

Opt for less bread in your stuffing and add more onions, celery, vegetables or fruits such as dried cranberries or apples to make a lower calorie version of the old standby. Try using whole-wheat bread to make it an even healthier option.

7. Go fruity!

Baked apples and poached pears are perfect, light ways to end any autumn meal.

8. Avoid greasy gravy.

Use a fat separator or refrigerate the pan juices and skim the fat off before making the gravy. This can cut out a significant amount of fat.

9. Sacrifice fat, not flavor.

Use low-fat buttermilk or low-sodium chicken stock in place of cream or whole milk in dishes like mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes or butternut squash. You'll get a creamy consistency and loads of flavor, minus the unnecessary fat and calories.

10. Steam and mash.

Try sneaking in more low-calorie vegetables by mashing or pureeing steamed or boiled cauliflower with low-fat milk. It's a flavorful substitute for mashed potatoes and can help balance an otherwise potato-rich meal!

11. Veg out.

Fall veggies such as squash and green beans are great side dishes that add color and variety to a meal without adding too many extra calories.

About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

The William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association partnered in May of 2005 to create a new generation of healthy Americans by addressing one of the nation's leading public health threats - childhood obesity. The goal of the Alliance is to stop the nationwide increase in childhood obesity by 2010, and to empower kids nationwide to make healthy lifestyle choices. The Alliance will positively affect the places that can make a difference to a child's health: homes, schools, restaurants, doctor's offices and communities. For more information on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, please visit: www.HealthierGeneration.org.

About the American Heart Association

Since 1924 the American Heart Association has helped protect people of all ages and ethnicities from the ravages of heart disease and stroke. These diseases, the nation's No. 1 and No. 3 killers, claim more than 870,000 American lives a year. The association invested nearly $554 million in fiscal year 2006-07 for research, professional and public education, advocacy and community service programs so people across America can live stronger, longer lives. The American Heart Association serves Connecticut's eight counties and population of more than 3.5 million people. The American Heart Association is a proud member of Community Health Charities of Connecticut.