With just a week before Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday foods are on the brain – Grandma’s homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and roasted sweet potatoes, to name a few. I'm also looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family and friends, and if you're like me, you'd prefer not to spend it feeling bloated from eating too much salt. And no one wants to be bloated while shopping for new clothes on Black Friday!
Here are some of my tips for cutting the salt – but not sacrificing flavor – in some traditional Thanksgiving foods.
- Turkey – look for a bird that hasn’t been injected with a sodium solution. Check the fine print on the packaging and look for terms such as “broth,” “saline” or “sodium solution.” Sodium levels in unseasoned fresh meats are around 100 mg or less per 4-ounce serving.
- Stuffing – compare nutrition labels and choose the bread with the lowest amount of sodium you can find. Use sage, thyme, oregano, basil, and other savory herbs for flavor.
- Mashed potatoes – replace some of all of the salt with roasted smashed garlic, garlic powder, or onion powder.
- Noodles – cook them with a low-sodium broth and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
- Sweet potatoes – prepare with orange juice, cinnamon, cloves, dried cranberries, or a drizzle of maple syrup. They’re also delicious when roasted with a little olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.
- Green bean casserole – rinse and drain your canned beans to remove up to 40 percent of the sodium.
- Vegetables – pair them with herbs and spices.
- Portion size – this applies to everything on the Thanksgiving table. When you eat fewer calories, you usually end up eating less sodium too. Start with a reasonable serving of the foods you want, and wait at least 15 minutes before taking seconds. This gives your body enough time to send signals to your brain that you are satisfied and no longer hungry.
Keeping sodium in check is part of the overall heart-healthy eating pattern. The American Heart Association recommends an eating pattern emphasizing fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while including low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils (like olive and canola), and limiting red meat, sodium, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. Following this pattern will help you limit not only the sodium you eat but also the saturated fat and trans fat you eat. To learn more, check out our holiday healthy eating guide.
Post your tips for a less-salty Thanksgiving meal in the comments. Here's to a happy and healthy holiday!