Casting the Leading Part for your Holiday Feast
Main Dishes low in Carbohydrates
Traditionally, most main dishes we think about over the holidays are naturally low-carb because they are usually protein-based. Low carb diets are very popular these days and there’s no reason to let the holidays derail your midlife health diet plan.
Turkey, duck, goose, and ham have been type-cast as lead actors of the holiday table, but are they all equally nutritious and diet friendly? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and see how well they play their part.
Let’s Talk Turkey
Families pride themselves in their great big, juicy, golden brown turkey coming out of the oven. This glorious bird is a holiday classic that is not only beautiful when cooked well, but is just as tasty. However is it as healthy as we think?
Turkey is essentially considered a low-to-no carb food. The meat is mostly protein; you can enjoy as much turkey as you wish if you are on a low-carb diet. The element to look out for is the type of dressing you may have stuffed the bird with. If you consider roasting your bread-filled bird a tradition, just be sure to avoid the dressing when dishing up your plate.
What about the fat, cholesterol, calories, and sodium? One trick to cut down on the fat, which often contains those unhealthy elements, is to be sure the bird is on a rack in the roasting pan so the fat cooks off and runs through, that way the bird isn’t sitting in the fat juices.
White Meat or Dark? The white meat is lower in fat and cholesterol than dark meat. But, dark meat has more iron. So there are always tradeoffs to think about. The skin is what you want to skip most if not all. Then you will avoid the vast majority of the fat and salt.
If you are faced with a holiday table filled to the brim with carb-rich, fat-rich foods, your choices may be limited, but feel confident helping yourself to multiple servings of turkey. If you stick to mostly white meat, with only a nibble or two of dark meat and a tiny bit of crispy skin, you can load up without worrying about your healthy diet plan.
Two other birds that are known to flock to the holiday table are duck and goose.
Either one is a glorious addition to a beautiful table. Both are aromatic, the skin crisps and browns beautifully, and they are often a traditional favorite because we just don’t tend to cook them often.
When it comes to eating healthier, which would you choose? Duck is thought to be a very fatty bird, and it is, of course. However, between the two, goose is actually much higher in calories and almost five times more calories come from the fat in a goose than the fat in a duck. This is without the skin.
Additionally, goose having a much higher calorie count from fat, the cholesterol count is quite a bit lower for a goose than a duck. This illustrates how important it is to check the nutrition labels before you dig in, especially if you are on a strict diet.
The good news is both duck and goose are carb-free! If you are on a low-glycemic diet, this may be one dish you can enjoy during the holidays. Again, the crispy skin may be tempting, but just a nibble will have to do if you want to stay within your dietary restrictions concerning fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Can a Ham steal the show?
It’s hard to look at a glazed ham straight in the cloves and see it as nutritious and diet-friendly. A basic baked ham fits into a low-carb diet, but what about after it’s dressed up for the holiday table?
Comparing a basic baked ham with a honey baked ham; you’ll quickly see where the nutrition suffers in the honey baked variety. The added salt, sugar and or honey cause the sodium levels jump dramatically as well as the carb levels. The calories and fat seem to be on similar levels, which would be considered quite high for most people counting calories. However, that is assuming you eat an equal part lean and fatty ham, so you could help yourself to a leaner portion and save a few calories.
With this holiday main, it could really depend on the cut and the recipe. If you choose a lean ham, then bake it with a savory glaze, such as a mustard glaze instead of a sweet glaze, you can save on carbs, calorie, and fat. Bake it on a rack to let the fats drip off and you’ll save even more on the fat content. Put the salt on the table instead of on the ham and you’ll reduce your sodium, as well.
It is said that the “Play’s the Thing,” so no matter your choice of “Lead” dish, you can always make it healthier role. Choose your main, and then tweak your recipe and cooking method to create a main dish that is not only beautiful and tasty, but healthier, too.