A lot of time and effort goes in to making a holiday meal. Tables will overflow with family favorites and traditional dishes such as candied yams and green bean casserole.
But is this food actually good for you? A typical holiday meal can easily exceed 3,000 calories, according to research from the Calorie Control Council. Some of the least healthy dishes might also be the most popular.
Roasted, skinless turkey is fairly healthy. When food is fried, Medical Daily points out, the amount of fat it absorbs during cooking increases. Deep frying your turkey adds calories and fat that aren’t necessary. You can save even more calories by choosing white meat over dark. According to Bon Appetit, “an average serving of dark meat with skin hits about 200 calories and 8g fat. Save nearly 100 calories and 13 grams of fat by choosing white meat from the breast and skipping the skin.”
Green bean casserole
Half a cup of plain green beans has only 20 calories. If you follow the green bean casserole recipe that is on a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, however, the caloric intake jumps to 227 for a half cup serving.
Candied yams/sweet potatoes with marshmallows
Just 4 ounces of candied sweet potatoes adds about 187 calories and 20 grams of sugar to your meal. Another thing to consider when eating all that sugar is your teeth.
“If marshmallow-loaded candied yams are a tradition in your household it might be time to reconsider,” Dr. Matthew Mullally, a dental surgeon, told thedailymeal.com. “Marshmallows are essentially pure sugar. Also, there’s really no reason to sweeten yams. Yams themselves are loaded with sweetness, as well as nutrients that don’t stick to the surface of your teeth.”
Consumer Reports suggests a “plain baked sweet potato (103 calories) or roasted sweet potato chunks (about 120 calories per cup)” instead.
Stuffing with sausage
A dish that is mostly bread, butter, seasoning and sausage packs a lot of carbs. A cup of your average bread stuffing is about 175 calories. Add in sausage, Medical Daily reports, and “you’re staring down the barrel of 400 calories per cup side dish and a week’s worth of regret.”
“Plus the stuffing absorbs a lot of the fat from the turkey,” cardiologist Dr. Adam Splaver of Hollywood, Florida, told thedailymeal.com. “Add in some sausage and you are looking at a high-calorie, fat-laden, high-sodium choice.”
Stuffing contains about 480 mg of sodium, thanks to the broth. Try using a low-sodium version this year.
According to Consumer Reports, a slice of pumpkin pie has about 280 calories and around 25 grams of sugars. But if you make a cheesecake from otherwise healthy pumpkin, Bon Appetit points out, “you'll finish off dinner with a massive amount of calories and fat.”
“Be mindful of how much you serve yourself,” said Amy Keating, R.D., a nutritionist at Consumer Reports. “If you double or triple your portions—which is easy to do—you could consume a sky-high number of calories.”