Happy Thanksgiving! It’s so DASH-friendly!

turkey2014We tend to think of the holidays as a time when healthy diets go out the window. However, it can be easy to stay on track with the DASH diet on Thanksgiving.

Remember the DASH diet principles: lots of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, poultry, low fat and nonfat dairy, bean and nuts, whole grains, and limited saturated fats and sweets. Use the following tips to make your Thanksgiving very DASH-friendly. And check out one of our favorite menus from previous Thanksgivings.


Raw veggies on a platter with a hummus dip.

Sliced yellow, orange, and red bell peppers, with a dip made from nonfat sour cream and salsa, or with guacamole.

Unsalted nuts.

Apple and pear slices with grapes.

Thanksgiving dinner

Turkey breast (with the skin removed) is very low in saturated fat. If you cook the stuffing separately from the bird, you are more likely to have a moist turkey breast. (Stuffing the bird means you need longer cooking times, which may result in dry breast meat.)Cranberry-stuffing

Make a low fat gravy by using a skimmer cup to separate out most of the fat from the turkey drippings. Make your gravy high flavor by first sauteing some onions or shallots with some garlic. Then add some red wine, and boil to burn off the alcohol, while leaving great flavor. Add skimmed meat drippings. Use instant flour (Wondra) to thicken hot gravy.

Use low sodium, nonfat chicken broth for more flavor in gravy and for moistening stuffing which is cooked in a casserole.

Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are great sources of potassium, a key nutrient in the DASH diet. Use skim milk and light margarine for mashing.

Fill your plate with extra helpings of vegetables, to avoid overdoing calories.

Cranberry sauce is a great source of antioxidants, which are great for your heart.

Choose whole grain rolls.

pumpkin-pie-ceramic Dessert

Pumpkin pie can count as a vegetable. Have your favorite recipe, or check out our lighter low-fat pumpkin pie recipe.

Similarly, apple pie will provide a serving of fruit. Add some cranberries to make it special, and really on track for Thanksgiving.


Limit alcohol to moderate amounts to keep calories under control, and help you manage your blood pressure. Women should limit to 1 glass and men to 2 glasses per day. Fill your wine glass with water, so you have something to drink without overdoing alcohol. Or have a glass of skim milk to add another key DASH diet food.
If you are eating at someone else’s house, bring a vegetable dish or vegetable appetizers, so that you can be sure to have a healthy dinner.

Move it!

Exercise on Thanksgiving Day. Go for a walk, shoot some hoops, or play touch football. If it snows (which it may do in the North), go out and romp in the snow. Create a new tradition with some family active time on the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

by Marla Heller, MS, RD

DASH diet expert, and author of The DASH Diet Action Plan, The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution, The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook, and The DASH Diet Younger You.


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