Published on October 29, 2018

Turkey and so much more

By Teresa Farrell, Registered and Licensed Dietician at Essentia Health.

Teresa Farrell, RD, LD

November, what a great time of year to be thankful. Thankful for the harvest, the cooler weather and warm cozy sweaters, comfort food and most importantly family, friends and our many blessings. As much as I love my family and friends let’s get back to the food part for now!

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner and you may already be thinking about your menu. Do you and your family eat a traditional turkey dinner or something a little more non-traditional? Our family eats a pretty simple traditional meal, including most of the 10 most common foods to eat at Thanksgiving.

The top 10 most common Thanksgiving foods:

  1. Turkey
  2. Stuffing/dressing 
  3. Mashed potatoes
  4. Gravy
  5. Cranberry sauce
  6. Corn
  7. Green bean casserole
  8. Candied yams/sweet potatoes
  9. Dinner rolls/biscuits and butter
  10. Pumpkin pie

Most of these foods are healthy in and of themselves. The problem comes in when we start adding relatively large amounts of fat and sugar to them. Take mashed potatoes for instance, the skin is generally removed thus losing fiber and nutrients, butter and whole milk or even cream is added, adding quite a bit of fat to that innocent potato! Consider cutting back or even swapping out some of these ingredients to achieve a lower fat, lower calorie, but still tasty version. Cranberry sauce, candied yams and pumpkin pie are loaded with sugar. These are all easy to make from scratch, you can then cut back on the amount of sugar used and/or use a sugar substitute for part of the sugar that’s called for.

Another issue is the amount of food we tend to eat at Thanksgiving dinner. One look at the top 10 list shows us that we probably shouldn’t take standard portions of everything or we will end up overeating. I realize it’s a challenge not to do so, but you are in control! Look over what is offered and only choose your favorites.  I will often forego the potatoes, corn and dinner roll as I feel I can eat those anytime. I don’t really care for green bean casserole so I will often forego that as well. When I do choose the foods I want, the next challenge is to only take relatively small amounts. As the saying goes, our eyes are often larger than our stomachs. You can leave this open ended telling yourself “I can always have more if I am truly hungry”. Remember most likely there will be leftovers to eat later or tomorrow and probably the next day! Challenge yourself to walk away from the table comfortable and satisfied, not stuffed!

Roasted Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts

Serves: 12


3 medium carrots (about ¾ pound), cut into 1 ½ inch thick circles

1 ½ cups Brussels sprouts (about ½ pound), halved

4 cups red potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 ½ inch thick slices

3 medium parsnips (about 1 pound), cut into 1 ½ inch thick slices

1 cup sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 ½ inch thick slices

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, add carrots, Brussels sprouts, red potatoes, parsnips and sweet potatoes. Toss well with olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper.

Spread the vegetables evenly on a large, sprayed baking sheet. Place on medium rack in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Nutrition information:

One serving: 140 Calories, 23 gm of carbs, 2 gm protein, 5 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, sodium 330 mg

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