See a letter from Ellen about the donation campaign. Your help matters!

Tips for Reducing the Fat in a Traditional Turkey Dinner

  • Feed your eyes first; plan additions and substitutions that add color, texture and flavors to your holiday table.
  • Start off with mulled wine or hot spiced cider instead of egg nog.
  • Turkey is a very low-fat meat, especially with the skin removed for serving. Turkeys which are self-basting or injected with fat to make for a "moister" bird must be labeled, and have 3 to 4 times as much fat per serving. Brining the turkey for 4 hours or overnight in a cold brine or marinade will add moisture without adding fat.
  • Mix high fat bastes such as butter or margarine half and half with low fat flavorings such as apple cider, fruit juice, wine or reduced sodium turkey broth. Or try a fat free baste such as teriyaki marinade.
  • Skim the fat from any broth you make for the gravy. If you cook ahead, refrigerate the drippings to let the fat congeal on top for easy removal.
  • Use browned flour ("fat free roux") instead of a fat and flour roux as the gravy base.
  • If you do use the turkey fat as part of the gravy base, MEASURE IT, and use only the minimum amount needed. That is about 1 tablespoon of fat and 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup of gravy. Too much fat is a common cause of separated gravy. Left over fat can be frozen to season future dishes.
    Pour off the rest of the fat before you add the flour to the seasonings in the bottom of the roasting pan.
  • If you use sausage in your stuffing, switch to lower fat turkey sausage.
  • For bread dressings or stuffings, use de-fatted broth, onions, celery, and seasonings to moisten the breadcrumbs. You may cook the onions and celery in the broth to soften them before adding them to the dressing.
  • If you use a stuffing mix or prepared bread cubes, substitute broth for half or all of the melted butter called for.
  • Dressings cooked separately from the turkey absorb less fat.
  • Trim down the creamy, cheesy, rich casseroles by substituting lower fat ingredients; comercial cream soups, mayonaisse, cheese, sour cream, half and half and cracker toppings are all available in reduced fat versions.
  • Or introduce new vegetable combos without the heavy sauces. Pearl onions, mushrooms, water chestnuts, pimento, slivered almonds, each add to the festive appearance without adding fat. A fresh herb or holiday spice is another option. Roasted or caramelized vegetables are simple and very flavorful with little fat.
  • Greens or green beans seasoned with meat base such as ham base or chicken base, or just a little onion sauteed in olive oil give an old-fashioned southern taste without the saturated fat of bacon or ham hocks.
  • Use a non buttery spread such as roasted garlic or a dipping oil with interesting new new breads or rolls. "Flaky" breads, such as croissants or crescent rolls are made with extra fat.
  • If you do serve butter, make sure it is very spreadable. People will use about half as much.
  • Slim down salad dressings. Use low-fat mayonnaise, buttermilk or yogurt to make creamy dressings. Sprinkle them on instead of dousing the salad, or serve separately.
  • Specialty fruit salads such as ambrosia or fruit salads made with fresh, seasonal fruits, such as apples, pears, and oranges, are more interesting than plain green salads and use less oil. Add something uncommon to the salad, such as sliced star fruit, kiwi, champagne grapes or purple grapes, or add a berry garnish.
  • To keep molded gelatin salads low in fat, substitute chopped or sliced water chestnuts for pecans or walnuts. If your recipe calls for cream cheese, sour cream, or cottage cheese use the reduced fat or fat-free versions.
  • Make a homemade thick spreadable sour cream substitute by draining plain nonfat gelatin-free yogurt overnight in the refrigerator in a coffee filter. It will lose about half its volume in liquid whey and make a thick, creamy substitute. If you will be cooking the yogurt, mix in 1 tablespoon of flour per cup and add at the last minute; it does "crack" very easily when heated.
  • Desserts are essential, but the less pie crust the better. Fruit cakes, reduced fat recipes for bundt or pound cakes, and home made bars and cookies are festive but can be very low fat. Hot fruit and apple desserts are seasonal without extra fat. Individual servings of pumpkin custard or pumpkin flan can replace traditional pumpkin pie. For dessert toppings, use smaller amounts of light whipped cream, or consider fat free half and half, a wine sauce or a fruit puree as an alternative topping. Dust cakes with powdered sugar or a thin glaze instead of using a buttercream frosting.

    Tips for Reducing the Carbs in a Traditional Turkey Dinner

  • Make your own cranberry sauce. Fresh whole cranberries are low calorie and high in fiber, with only 44 calories per cup. Canned cranberry sauce can have 400 calories per cup, mostly sugar, with the fiber removed. Try making your own cranberry sauce, relish or chutney, including a ground whole orange and reducing the sugar by 1/3 or more, or replacing all or part with Splenda/ sucralose.
  • Mashed cooked cauliflower may be used in place of mashed potatoes or to replace part of the potatoes in any mashed recipe. Does a pretty good job holding on to the gravy, too.
  • Splurge on generous amounts of the luxury low carb veggies. It is hard to feel deprived while eating roasted asparagus or baked artichoke hearts provencal.
  • Substituting baked winter squash or sweet pumpkin for the sweet potatoes in a casserole reduces carbs. Using a nutty topping instead of marshmallows helps even further.
  • Use a smaller spoon in the serving dish for the potatoes, sweet potatoes and stuffings. No kidding! Most people take one or two spoonfuls regardless of the size of the spoon, so step it down one size.
  • Use a smaller size roll, or skip the bread course all together.
  • Provide at least one dessert choice that is sugar-free, preferably high protein like a creamy flan. Use a nut-based crust for your dessert or cheesecake. Try a flourless chocolate torte recipe.