Thanksgiving Caution

Thanksgiving ... for many it's all about the turkey ... use caution!!!

by Dr. Keith Ayoob


True story -- about twenty-two years ago my father had a "preventive" quadruple bypass. Didn't have a heart attack or anything, but they found clogged arteries and wanted to prevent things. Well, it happened in mid-October and gave us all a reminder of what Thanksgiving was all about. At any rate, the T-Day dinner that year was really pared down, calorie-wise. No one wanted to take any chances, diet-wise, so we kept things very simple and on the lean side.


Of course there was turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, etc., but we offered some healthy options so that the meal didn't turn into the usual Thanksgiving "foodapalooza." Here are some recommendations for trimming some calories off of the meal and still having a good time:


DON'T STUFF THE BIRD, or you'll really end up stuffing your waistline -- with a lot of saturated fat. That's what drips off the bird and into the stuffing to make it fatty. Don't believe me? Refrigerate some of the stuffing and look at it the next day. It's all hard from the solidified fat -- and calories. Bonus: an Unstuffed bird cooks a little faster. Just stuff it with seasonings, onions, celery, and the like.


About the stuffing: cook it outside the bird, and try a vegetable stuffing rather than the sausage type. Include some celery, onions, and think about adding some diced apples, raisins, and almonds or walnuts along with the bread cubes. Season and moisten with some good chicken broth and then dot it with butter -- still a lot less fat than the regular stuff and it's even better the next day -- if there's any left. People really love the added nuts and fruits.


* Turkey needs less (or no) gravy if it's not dry. How to keep it from drying out? Two ways: 1) Roast it breast side down, so the back end can baste the breast as it cooks. About 40 minutes before it's done, flip it to brown the breast. Not as pretty a bird, but tastes terrific. 2) TAKE ITS TEMPERATURE. Figure 15 minutes per pound and USE A MEAT THERMOMETER to check doneness. It should register 165 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh. As soon as it reaches that temp, out it comes.


*Along with the candied sweets, ROAST some white and sweet potatoes or yams and give people a choice of the high-cal stuff or the simpler option. Then add butter only if you like and only the amount you like. Mashed sweets soak up butter like a sponge.


*Along with regular creamed whatever veggies, steam up some broccoli and red peppers or roast some cauliflower, onions and carrots in the oven. Just toss into a zip-lock bag with a little olive oil and shake them around (the kids love this job), then roast in a pan and season as you like. I like this even better than steaming because the veggies carmelize and get even sweeter.


* Pumpkin pie -- definitely a must for this holiday, but try and avoid the crust. I actually made a separate one for Dad that year that had no crust at all -- just baked in a pie tin. THIS was the one everyone ended up fighting over, so now I HAVE to make one without a crust.


These are just a few options -- and you can still make the regular items, but these are some easy ways to provide choices that won't leave you in a coma from the meal, or regretting it the next day.


By the way -- Dad recovered very nicely, and is still enjoying Thanksgiving dinner -- including the crustless pie -- with us at 92.