Looking for ways to have a heart-healthy Thanksgiving? Give your favorite recipes and traditions a new, healthy twist with these ideas.
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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.
- 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.
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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.
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.
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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.
Heart-Healthy Recipe Ideas for Your Feast
Looking for some new, healthful recipes to try this Thanksgiving? We’ve got a few suggestions:
To learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.