Healthy Living

published : 2023-11-14

5 Little-known Facts About Thanksgiving Turkey from Registered Dieticians

What You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving Turkey — and What You Should Know Before the Holiday

A close-up photo of a beautifully roasted Thanksgiving turkey, highlighting its golden, crispy skin. (Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

With fall in full swing, anticipation for the annual turkey-day feast is on the rise for many who love the November holiday.

While many are familiar with the tradition of roasting the iconic bird, how much do you really know about the nutritional aspects of turkey?

And lest anyone think Thanksgiving season is the time to throw healthy eating out the window — think again.

Thanksgiving is actually an ideal time to try and integrate healthy recipes and strategies for healthy eating and portion control.

Try using the time with family to share new healthy traditions that involve roasted nuts, herb and fruit-based mocktails without added sugars, and healthier versions of classic favorites like gluten-free veggie-based stuffing and cauliflower mashed potatoes.

And reflect on the gratitude for each bite of food and the process that transpired in bringing it to your dinner table.

Here are five lesser-known health facts about turkey, the traditional centerpiece of countless Thanksgiving tables and the subject of endless autumnal obsession.

A colorful and vibrant array of fresh vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and green beans, ready to be used in healthy Thanksgiving recipes. (Taken with Nikon D850)

Turkey really packs the protein.

A single serving of turkey can provide about 24 grams of protein, which is essential for muscle growth, repair, and overall bodily functions.

Protein also helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied, which can be a boon for those watching their weight during the holiday season.

Roasted turkey may get all the holiday attention, but don’t overlook using turkey bones to make a nutrient-dense broth.

Turkey is an incredibly healthy protein, especially if it's free-range.

This broth uses all aspects of the turkey, which shows gratitude and reverence for the animal's life. But also, it is extremely healthy for your gut, bones, and adrenal glands.

What would Thanksgiving turkey be without gravy?

A steaming bowl of homemade turkey broth, made from the nutrient-rich bones of a free-range turkey, perfect for a cozy Thanksgiving soup. (Taken with Sony Alpha A7 III)

The one thing you should try to avoid this Thanksgiving is the turkey gravy, as it's higher in sodium than many people realize.

A single ladle of gravy can add as much as 300 mg of sodium to your plate.

High sodium intake is linked to increased blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease, so it's something to be mindful of.

Don't fall into the trap that ‘plant-based’ means healthy. Meat-free foods like Tofurkey and vegan meat patties are often loaded with sodium, processed oils, soy, and gluten, which contribute to mental health problems, cancer, and heart disease.

The plant-based foods that are healthy for you and encouraged are actual plants like mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, arugula, basil, parsley, real olive oil, avocados, berries and the like.

How you prepare it can make a significant difference in its nutritional profile. Opting for skinless white meat, and using herbs for flavoring instead of butter or salt, can make your holiday feast both delicious and a bit more health-conscious.

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