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Tips for a Heart-Healthy Thanksgiving


Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Looking for ways to have a heart-healthy Thanksgiving? Give your favorite recipes and traditions a new, healthy twist with these ideas.

Healthier Thanksgiving Dishes

Picture your ideal Thanksgiving meal: Do you see a plate piled with turkey, a mound of stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and creamy green bean casserole? You can still enjoy your holiday favorites without losing flavor by making some simple swaps that cut the extra fat, salt, and sugar from your recipes.

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  • Choose a fresh turkey instead of one injected with a sodium solution. Enjoy three ounces of turkey and fill your plate with vegetables to enjoy a healthy dinner.
  • Give vegetables a starring role in your feast. Sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, winter squash, and green beans can make great additions to your menu.
  • Bring out the natural flavor in vegetables with herbs, spices, citrus juices, or vinegar instead of salt, butter, and cream-based sauces.
  • Use whole-grain bread in your stuffing instead of white, and add herbs and dried fruits or vegetables—like apples and mushrooms — for more flavor.
  • Skip the marshmallows on your sweet potatoes and add cinnamon instead.
  • Mash potatoes with low-sodium chicken broth instead of butter and cream.
  • Go for low-fat milk instead of canned soup in your green bean casserole.
  • Make your own cranberry sauce with fresh berries, but limit the added sugars, or try a sweetener instead.

RELATED: Infographic: Thanksgiving Day Fixin’s

Don’t forget: Portion control plays a big part in healthy eating on a daily basis, so keep an eye on your portions at Thanksgiving dinner. Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast before your main meal so you’re not overly hungry at turkey time.

Find out more about healthier Thanksgiving recipes

Lighter Desserts for Post-Thanksgiving Dinner

If your holiday feast isn’t complete without something sweet, don’t worry: you can still enjoy dessert and have a heart-healthy Thanksgiving. It’s easy to make healthy swaps when baking, including:

  • Swapping applesauce for butter or oil
  • Using lower-calorie sugar substitute instead of sugar
  • Choosing low-fat or fat-free milk instead of cream
  • Mixing whole wheat and white flour instead of using only white flour

Try the American Heart Association’s baked sweet potatoes and apples, or serve in-season fruits like apples and pears for a light dessert instead of pie. And remember, portion control is just as important at dessert as it is at dinner.

RELATED: Thanksgiving Safety Tips for All

More Heart-Healthy Thanksgiving Healthy Tips

  • Cook and bake from scratch whenever you can. This way, you know exactly what goes into your dishes and you can control the amount of fat, sodium, and sugar.
  • Always check nutrition labels on packaged foods, and compare brands. Choose the option with the lowest amount of fat, sodium, and sugar.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  • Don’t skip activity. Make time to walk, bike, hike, dance, or play your favorite sport, even when you have a busy day of entertaining ahead of you.
  • Keep calm. The holidays can be stressful, so take time for your favorite activity or meditation.
Want your #thanksgiving to be more heart-healthy? Check out these favorite recipes with a twist! Click To Tweet

Heart-Healthy Recipe Ideas for Your Feast

Looking for some new, healthful recipes to try this Thanksgiving? We’ve got a few suggestions:

Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples Recipe

Tomato Basil and Bruschetta Recipe

Veggie and Goat Cheese Pie Recipe

Greek Quinoa Salad Recipe

Low-Cal Chocolate Mousse Recipe

To learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

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Heart and Vascular Institute

As a recognized leader in cardiovascular care — with a rich history in clinical research and innovation — the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers a full spectrum of personalized cardiovascular services. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the United States, UPMC has made significant contributions to the advancement of cardiovascular medicine. Read More