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National Restaurant Association - Ask the Nutritionist: Tips for a calorie-friendly, gluten-free Thanksgiving

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Ask the Nutritionist: Tips for a calorie-friendly, gluten-free Thanksgiving

The National Restaurant Association's Director of Nutrition and Healthy Living Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., provides regular commentary on the NRA News blog. In this post, she discusses tips for making a Thanksgiving meal calorie-friendly and gluten-free.

Thanksgiving will soon be here, which provides an opportunity to reflect back and appreciate all that we have. A traditional Thanksgiving meal can provide a day's worth of calories, but here are some simple approaches to reduce calories, saturated fat and sodium in the meals you provide your guests. In addition, for those who are seeking gluten-free options on menus, a few tips are provided:

•  Of all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, gravy typically contains the greatest amount of total and saturated fat. When making gravy, remove the visible fat from meat and poultry juices. To make it easier, place the pan drippings in the refrigerator, which will allow the fat to harden for easier removal.

•  Use low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth instead of milk or cream in mashed potatoes to add flavor and save on calories and fat.

•  For prix-fixe menus, offer a salad course with lots of vegetables and/or fruit, which are packed with nutrients and fiber.

•  Offer guests an option of white meat turkey with no skin (i.e. turkey breast) as it's leaner than dark meat; a serving is about 3 ounces of meat (the size of a deck of cards).

•  Green bean casserole is delicious, but can pack quite a few calories. Consider serving sautéed, steamed or grilled green beans as a side instead.

•  Don't forget about all the wonderful fall vegetables that are available, such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots and green beans. Incorporate these choices into your menus to provide guests with lower-calorie options.

•  In place of traditional desserts, consider offering peach or apple cobbler and top with low-fat ice cream or yogurt.

There has been an increased awareness of gluten-free cuisine in the last several years. As a restaurant operator, you may consider how to accommodate guests with gluten-free needs and preferences. Here are some tips for accommodating gluten-free diners for a Thanksgiving meal:

•  Carefully read the manufacturer's labels on the packaging of turkeys to ensure that gluten has not been added, such as in basting solutions.

•  Gluten can be present in broth, marinades, gravy, seasoning packets, and spice blends so make sure you read all the labels. As a gluten-free alternative, potato flour or sweet rice flour could be used as a thickening agent for gravy.

• Remember to not transfer serving spoons among dishes to avoid cross-contact of gluten. Keep serving spoons separate and designated for one dish only.

• Use cornbread for stuffing and also use gluten-free flours such as corn, nut, potato, rice or sorghum for baking needs.

No matter what your Thanksgiving meal is comprised of, be sure you eat slowly and enjoy the experience. Be mindful of the flavor combinations and savor the food itself, not the abundance of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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