Turkey Talk from Nutrition Specialists on Healthy Thanksgiving Day Bird
For many American families, at the center of the Thanksgiving dinner table is the turkey. As a lean meat, turkey is a very good choice for those who want to eat healthfully this holiday season, but the preparation can often be tricky – even for the most experienced of chefs. Mayo Clinic nutrition and obesity specialists offer tips and recipes for the most healthful bird on our annual Day of Thanks.
The wild turkey is native to North America and was a staple in the Native American diet when the Pilgrims arrived here in 1620. The Wampanoag tribe of Indians assisted the settlers, introducing them how to grow foods such as corn and squash and how to hunt and fish. The first Thanksgiving celebration was held in 1621 with our new Native American friends as invited guests of honor.
Thanksgiving became an official holiday in the US on October 3, 1863 via proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln. By 1916, the day was often referred to in writings as “Turkey Day” due to the popularity of the bird at the traditional feast, held each year on the fourth Thursday of November.
The National Turkey Federation declares turkey as a delicious, nutritious protein. A three-ounce serving of boneless, skinless turkey breast contains 26 grams of protein with only 120 calories and 1 gram of fat. Exchanging red meats such as beef for lean, white meats such as turkey has been shown to be beneficial in decreasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, such as colon cancer.
Turkey Selection and Preparation
When choosing a turkey for your family feast, the rule of thumb is to purchase a bird that provides 1 pound per person you are feeding. “The World’s Healthiest Foods” website suggests purchasing a fresh turkey, versus one that is “frozen” or “previously frozen” as these may contain excess additives such as MSG and salt as preservatives. When buying a fresh turkey, do not purchase one that is pre-stuffed. If not handled properly, harmful bacteria in the stuffing can multiply quickly.
WHFoods also suggests, if possible, buying a certified organic turkey. These are raised on organic feed, providing you with a food that is less likely to contain unwanted contaminants.