Buy the right bird. There are several different things to look for when buying a turkey—and the one you end up buying depends on several factors, including your budget. Here are some things to know when buying a turkey:
- Organic. Farms that raise certified organic birds can’t inject them with artificial ingredients, chemicals, antibiotics, growth stimulants or hormones.
- Natural. According to the USDA, the term “natural” means the meat contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives and was minimally processed. This is the case with all fresh meat and poultry so this term doesn’t hold much weight.
- Free-range. This means that your turkey had access to the outdoors. Unfortunately, it sounds nicer than it is because the USDA does not regulate the quantity or quality of time spent outdoors. While this classification isn’t as humane as it sounds, it’s still better to choose free-range over conventional farmed poultry.
- Heritage or heirloom. This is a variety of domestic turkeys that have a relatively long life span and a slow growth rate. They are raised outdoors and can reproduce (unlike industrial bred birds). Some people swear by heritage turkeys; they’re said to be incredibly rich in flavor.
In with the new. There are just some dishes that families have to serve each year or it won’t feel the same—perhaps in your family it’s sweet potato pie or jellied cranberry sauce. We’re certainly not ones to knock tradition, but sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a new recipe—or a twist on an old favorite. Whether you just add in a few unfamiliar sides this year or surprise the family with an entirely new menu, we encourage you to seek out some healthier recipes. For example, if the family loves traditional cranberry sauce, try out a recipe that uses whole, fresh cranberries this year.
Use smart substitutes. There are many different ways to ever-so-slightly tweak a dish in a healthy way. Betcha no one will notice! Here are a few great ingredients to swap:
- Low sodium chicken stock or broth in place of butter for mashed potatoes or casserole dishes
- Nonfat Greek yogurt as an alternative to sour cream or mayonnaise
- Extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter for sautéing
- Applesauce can be used in some baking recipes in place of oil, butter or sugar
- Avocado to replace butter, oil or mayonnaise in some recipes
- Bananas often work as a sugar substitute in baking
- Swap out croutons with pecans, almonds or walnuts in salads; for an added crunch and flavor, roast the nuts!
Protein and fiber, it’s what’s for breakfast. Enjoying a healthy protein and fiber-based breakfast, like a hard-boiled egg and raspberries, on the morning of Thanksgiving will boost metabolism and help control your cravings and appetite for the main event.
Get moving. Even if your family isn’t the Turkey Trot (annual 5K on Thanksgiving) kind, get outside for a good game of touch football or take a stroll around the neighborhood together. Also, increase your exercise routine over this week—even if it’s an extra 30 minutes added to a workout or an extra jog on a Sunday, it’ll feel good to get active before the festivities.