If there’s a natural cheat day built into the calendar, Thanksgiving is probably it. In general, it’s okay to loosen your diet regimen a little bit on turkey day, but you should try to keep track of what you’re putting in your body. There are the obvious unhealthy foods we associate with the holidays – stuffing, pecan pie, and so on – but what about the bird itself?

Turkey is often touted as a heart-healthy alternative to other proteins, but the truth is not quite as simple as that. While a turkey burger is definitely better for you than a beef patty, how healthy it actually is depends on the lean-to-fat ratio. It’s important to keep in mind that not all turkey meat is created equal.

White Meat vs Dark Meat

We all have our preferences in terms of flavor, but how do white meat and dark meat compare to each other? The rule of thumb is that the darker the meat, the higher the fat content. If you’re trying to keep your fat and cholesterol down this Thanksgiving, make sure to stick with the white meat. It’s also key to go with skinless cuts, as turkey skin is generally the most unhealthy part of the entire bird.

What’s the Healthiest Way to Cook a Turkey?

It’s not just the bird itself, it’s also what you do to it. There’s more than one way to skin a cat and there’s definitely more than one way to cook a turkey. Let’s go over a few of the most common methods.

  • Frying: Deep fried turkey may taste delicious, but it should come as no surprise that this is one of the most unhealthy methods of preparation. The oil that is absorbed by the skin of the turkey during the deep frying process sends the fat and calorie content skyrocketing.
  • Smoking or Grilling: These processes are both more or less fine in terms of adding calories or saturated fat to your turkey, but it’s important to keep in mind that heavy charing can cause an increased risk of cancer.
  • Brining: Brining isn’t too unhealthy as far as cooking methods go, but it does increase your turkey’s sodium content, which can cause plaque buildup and make your heart have to work harder.
  • Roasting: Now we’re talking. Roasting your turkey in its own juices is the healthiest way to go. Instead of adding salt or butter, try using fresh herbs for seasoning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Above all else, making smart food choices shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself during this holiday. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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