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Celebrating A Lighter Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinnerThe traditional Thanksgiving dinner often includes a giant roasted turkey, buttery mashed potatoes with gravy, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, cookies, pies, and so much more. Many of these foods can be healthier with the right preparation. Follow the tips below for a lighter Thanksgiving dinner.

While brining the turkey (soaking it in a salt water bath) is popular, stay away from this high-sodium method. There are plenty of ways to introduce moisture and flavor to your meat without sodium.

When you buy your turkey, check the packaging to make sure it has not been brined, enhanced or basted in chicken broth or salt. Even if the label says "100% natural," it can still have added sodium, which is why it's important to read the labels. Use a dry rub instead with a simple herb mixture, or use fresh fruit and glazes.

When making mashed potatoes, use one-percent instead of whole milk. Instead of using butter, which has 100 calories per tablespoon, use light margarine or whipped butter. Gravy recipes usually call for turkey giblets or the drippings from the turkey, which are high in fat and cholesterol. Instead, heat low-sodium chicken broth and slowly add cornstarch until thick, then add mushrooms, parsley, and onion.

Sauté fresh green beans in olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, instead of making sodium-packed traditional green bean casserole.

The traditional pumpkin pie filling is mostly pumpkin puree and sweetened condensed milk, which is high in saturated fat and sugar. This holiday, try a no-crust pie. Bake a can of ready-to-go pumpkin pie filling in a glass baking dish as is, cool, then add low-calorie whipped topping on top. Or, try our Lighter Pumpkin Pie recipe at only 125 calories per serving.

Food of the Month: Pumpkin Seeds

  • What: The edible seed of a pumpkin, referred to as either the kernel or the whole seed.
  • When: Available year round in the bulk section of health food stores, fresh pumpkin seeds are available in the fall.
  • Where: Sprinkle on top of salads or oatmeal. Bake into muffins and breads.
  • Why: The seeds are good sources of protein, as well as iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and potassium.
  • How: To roast whole pumpkin seeds from a raw pumpkin, combine the seeds (rinsed and dried) with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and a little salt. Roast on a baking sheet at 300°F for about 45 minutes. Cool.​