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A cheap and healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one holiday where goals of eating healthy and sticking to the budget are easily obtained. Consider the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and enjoying the abundance of the season. Our traditional favorites are basic and economical. They use produce that is abundant in the season. Using in season ingredients translates into savings for your pocketbook. Stick to the traditional, in season favorites, and a cheap holiday meal is easily had.

Turning those economical ingredients into delicious and healthy dishes for your Thanksgiving feast is simply a matter of sticking to the basics, and using alternative flavorings where we may have relied on fats and sugars before. Our Natural Condiments section is a wonderful resource for learning about using herbs and spices to flavor food. Try the following ideas to keep your Thanksgiving feast a healthy one.

The turkey

Turkey is naturally a low fat meat. Yet, in our effort to keep it moist, cooks are told to slather it in butter, adding fat. It isn't necessary. The turkey can be cooked with only herbs and spices rubbed on the outside. Or use healthier fat like olive oil to rub on the skin before seasoning.

The most important rule to having a moist bird to set on your table is to not overcook it. Your turkey needs to cook slowly, at 325°F, until it reaches and internal temperature of 165. Dry turkey is usually turkey that has been overcooked.

Do not stuff your turkey with bread stuffing. Bread stuffing will absorb the moisture from the meat. Instead stuff your turkey with apples, celery, onions, carrots or other ingredients that will add moisture and flavor.

Cover your turkey when roasting. Loosely cover the turkey with foil until the last half hour in the oven. At that time remove the foil to allow the skin to brown. Of course, you probably realize that eating the skin is not part of a healthy Thanksgiving meal, though a little indulgence is certainly allowed on a holiday.

Or perhaps we should call it dressing since we will be baking it in a pan rather than stuffing the turkey with it. To boost the nutritional value of bread stuffing consider adding finely chopped vegetables like celery, carrots and onions. The vegetables will need to be lightly cooked before adding to the stuffing mixture. Whole grain bread cubes can also be used. Cut the fat by using broth instead of butter.


Stick to the basics here, and let the potatoes shine for themselves. Sweet potatoes are naturally delicious. There is no need to add lots of sugar or marshmallows to enhance their flavor. Roasted sweet potatoes are a better alternative, or simply bake them and serve with a small dollop of butter whipped with cinnamon.

It is hard to imagine a Thanksgiving table without a heaping dish of mashed potatoes, but it is easy to imagine a lighter version of them. When you drain the boiled potatoes reserve the cooking liquid. Add some of it back, instead of milk and butter, as you mash the cooked potatoes. Add some garlic power or other seasonings for added flavor.

Other holiday favorites

Keeping other holiday favorites cheap and healthy is easy. Keep them simple. For example, sautéed green beans instead of green bean casserole. Enjoy them in moderation. Pumpkin pie is a pretty healthy choice among desserts. Enjoy it, along with some real whipped cream, in moderation. Gravy is hard to make healthy. Skim the fat off the broth first, and enjoy a small amount of gravy on your potatoes.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and to be thankful for the abundance of the season. Keeping your Thanksgiving feast cheap and healthy is as easy as fixing the traditional holiday favorites in a simple fashion, and enjoying them in moderation. Enjoy your holiday and your healthy feast.