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Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving Meal Cholesterol-Friendly

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Updated October 25, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving Meal Cholesterol-Friendly

You can have a delicious Thanksgiving day - and stick to your cholesterol-lowering diet.

MorganLane Studios - istockphoto

When Thanksgiving Day comes to mind, you may be filled with images of a juicy turkey and all the delicious trimmings that traditionally accompany it. But if this is your first year celebrating Thanksgiving after being diagnosed with high cholesterol, you may dread being surrounded by high-fat temptations. The good news is that, even if you have high cholesterol, you can partake in the festivities and enjoy delicious dishes with your family and friends. Follow these tips for a heart-healthy Thanksgiving Day lunch or dinner that won't greatly increase your cholesterol levels:

Go Light on the Appetizers

Although there are many delicious, low-fat appetizers, they can sometimes distract from the main course - leaving you full before your meal arrives. To avoid overeating and taking in too many calories, limit the number of appetizers you consume before sitting down for your Thanksgiving Day meal.

Always Start with a Salad

Vegetables, an important part of a healthy diet, should be included in every meal. A salad is a great way to start off a meal; by adding a variety of healthy ingredients such as nuts, veggies, and whole grains, you can take the edge off your hunger until the main course is ready.

Ways to Create a Healthy Salad

Select Lean Meats

Turkey, the meat traditionally used for most Thanksgiving Day meals, is lean and won't greatly increase your cholesterol - as long as you refrain from overindulging. Some other meats used in lieu of turkey, such as ham or steak, may consist of fattier cuts that could introduce more cholesterol into your diet. If you're looking for a meat as your main course, include lean cuts such as turkey or chicken, preparing them in a low-fat manner, such as:

  • Roast or bake the meat. Frying introduces more fat into the diet.
  • Flavor it with spices, as opposed to butter, creamy dressings or gravies, which will add additional fat.
  • Opt for white meat over dark meat.

Or consider choosing the even healthier alternative of fish, which is lower saturated fat and calories. If you stick with lean turkey or chicken, just don't overindulge, or you'll add extra calories.

Go Light on the Gravy

In addition to the turkey, gravy is another Thanksgiving Day favorite. Unfortunately, gravy can also be high in fat, so if you absolutely must include gravy, do so sparingly. Alternatively, rather than relying on gravy as the primary flavor enhancer for all your foods, you may select from "safer" options at the Thanksgiving Day table: sprinkle a little bit of rosemary over your meat, add chives to your mashed potatoes, or sprinkle pepper over some of your side dishes. These options will add a huge helping of flavor to your dish without greatly affecting your cholesterol.

Include Plenty of Fruits and Veggies

Side dishes are usually plentiful at a Thanksgiving Day meal, so choosing from healthier dishes will ensure that you're not including a significant amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet. When making your selections, include dishes that are high in fiber and contain beans, vegetables and fruits, such as:

  • Whole grain rolls instead of white yeast rolls.
  • Cranberries, green beans, and sweet potatoes.
  • Side dishes that include beans or legumes.

As with your main course, you should also be mindful about what you're putting in side dishes to enhance their flavor. Although including pepper, spices, and low-fat toppings will not introduce a lot of fat to the dish, toppings such as butter, margarine, heavy creams and dressings, and salt should be avoided.

A Word About Desserts

Nobody said that you couldn't have dessert when following a cholesterol-lowering diet. However, you should be wise about the types of dessert you consume. Desserts containing low-fat ingredients and fresh fruit are always light and will pack less of a punch on your cholesterol levels. Avoid desserts containing heavy creams, mousses and pastries, as these may contain saturated and trans fats which could cause your cholesterol levels to increase.

Cholesterol-Friendly Dessert Tips

And, if you're completely stuffed from your meal, you might want to save the dessert for another day.

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