Heart Healthy Thanksgiving Tips

Heart Health for the Holidays!

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? Let’s face it, Thanksgiving is a holiday where spending time with family and friends (and being thankful for them) is celebrated around an abundance of food. Everyone brings their favorite dish and at the center of it is often a butter-laden turkey! But if you have (or are at high risk for) heart disease, Thanksgiving can be difficult to enjoy. That is why we have put together some tips for you so you can enjoy the holiday and still partake in all that Thanksgiving has to offer.

Tips for a Heart Healthy Thanksgiving

Don’t Overindulge 

The number one rule is to simply not overdue it. Can you, on occasion, have something rich like your sister’s pumpkin pie? Yes. Instead, just have half a slice and forgo the whipped cream topping. Simply make sure that you pay attention to how much fat from creams and dairy you may be taking in and try and cut down on those items as they are often full of saturated fats.

Add Flavor, Reduce the Fat 

Everyone seems to think you need to butter the turkey to keep it moist.

That is not true.

If you roast a turkey without overcooking it, it will stay moist. Just rub it down with olive oil mixed with herbs and garlic. The olive oil is heart healthy and will help keep it moist while the herbs will give the bird a lot of flavor without all the extra saturated fat.

Avoid Added Salt 

Some turkeys come with added salt solutions to keep them moist. But, if you are on a reduced sodium diet, try and avoid that. Find a good organic turkey that doesn’t use preservatives. And, if you use herbs on all the dishes versus salt, you will still get a lot of great flavor that is actually healthier for you.

Skin Game

Some of you make like turkey skin. Some you may not. If you are in the latter camp, you are fine. But, if you enjoy turkey skin, we would urge you to consider skipping it for a heart healthy Thanksgiving. For example, a 3-ounce portion of white meat without skin has only 132 calories and 3 grams of fat. But, if you add skin, it is 168 calories with 6 grams of fat!

Sweet Potatoes – Hold the Sugar! 

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet. But, most of the famous recipes are laden with brown sugar and call for topping with marshmallows. If you want to have a prayer of having a half slice of pie at the end of dinner, you are going to want to modify your traditional sweet potato recipe. Instead of adding all the extra sugar and marshmallow topping, just add a little drizzle of natural honey or maple syrup.

Hold the Butter 

As we said above, avoid butter on the turkey. But, you will also want to avoid it in the gravy. The key to gravy is just using the drippings form the roasting pan (with the fat skimmed off). This alone will provide great flavors without the added calories and fat.

Also, many stuffing recipes call for butter. Instead, use chicken broth. Again, the broth will keep the stuffing moist and it creates a dish with a lot less fat.

Increase Physical Activity 

As always, make sure you get some exercise. Take some time to go out for a walk after the meal. Or go outside and play catch with the kids. Not only does this help keep your cardio health up, but it also helps reduce stress which is always helpful during the holidays. Also, even if you are not doing the Black Friday sales the next day, go to the shopping center with other family members and simply walk the mall.

How to Use this Information 

Being heart healthy at Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season is really about just being aware and getting extra exercise. Try alternatives substitutes in your recipes and, again, just don’t overindulge. If you need some help with ideas, be sure to check out our recipes.