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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on November 20th, 2014

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Healthy Twists on a Traditional Thanksgiving Day Meal

assisted living | caregiver tips | Health Tips for Senior Citizens | Aging & Caregiving

thanksgiving-mealResearch suggests that the average American eats as many as 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day.

But enjoying a delicious meal doesn’t have to mean packing on the pounds.

While Thanksgiving heralds the beginning of “high risk” time when it comes to holiday weight gain, consider these ways to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal and get the season off to a healthy start for you and your aging loved one.

Talking Turkey 

A Consumer Reports study recently concluded that turkeys sold at U.S. supermarkets have high contamination rates for campylobacter and salmonella -- both of which pose a particular threat to the elderly. Avoid the risk by choosing an organic, pasture-raised turkey from a local farm. Not only is this a more humanitarian, ecologically conscious option, it’s also a guilt-free one: turkey is loaded with protein.

Think Outside the Box….And Can

Prepackaged stuffing is high in sodium and full of empty calories. If stuffing is a must-have at your holiday table, choose a recipe that incorporates fruits and vegetables -- such as apples and dried cranberries -- and swap out the white bread for whole wheat. 

While fresh cranberries have a multitude of health benefits, the canned variety is bereft of them all. Skip the sugary processed cranberries and instead make you own cranberry sauce by mixing apple juice concentrate or balsamic vinegar with mashed fresh cranberries.

Veggie Power

Pureed boiled cauliflower mixed with low-fat milk is a tasty substitute for mashed potatoes. If die-hard potato fans insist on the real deal, swap out cream and butter for flavor-packed low-sodium chicken stock or low-fat buttermilk. Another option? Seek out sweet potatoes -- a terrific source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber and potassium.

Butternut squash and green beans are also traditional fall favorites, adding color as well as filling flavor to any meal.

Dessert Matters

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a sweet treat to end the meal. Pumpkin pie lovers are in luck: this scrumptious squash is low in both calories and fat, and chock full of nutrients. If you’re following a favorite family recipe, use half the amount of sugar: no one will notice it’s missing -- particularly when you top it with a light or fat free whipped topping.

Poached pears and baked apples, meanwhile, offer pie lovers all of the flavor and significantly less fat than traditional recipes. 

While eating well during the holidays may take a bit more planning, the rewards of enjoying a delicious AND nutritious meal are worth it. Enjoy a good start to the holiday season leading up to a happy, healthy new year.

Key Takeaways:

  • Local, organic turkeys may cost more than supermarket varieties, but offer greater health benefits.
  • Choose whole foods -- from cranberries to whole wheat bread -- for low sugar, high flavor options.
  • Sacrificing fat doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor: seek out low- or no-sugar variations on traditional dessert favorites.
  • Fill up your aging loved one’s plate with brightly colored fruits, veggies and lean turkey. Offer smaller portions of high-calorie sides.
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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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