The year-end festive ​season can be a constant round of feasting and dinner parties. Popular votes for the centrepiece usually go to roast beef, leg of lamb, glazed ham — and, of course — the perennial favourite: roast turkey.​

​Red meat vs. White meat

​​​A turkey done well impresses, both visually and taste-wise. What’s more, it has a nutritional edge over red meats like beef or lamb. Red meats contain higher levels of fat, especially saturated fat. 

Turkey, a white meat, is a good source of lean protein and vitamin B complex. Nutritionally, it is pretty much on par with chicken (eaten without skin): low in saturated fat and cholesterol. A serving of turkey breast meat — about one and a half slices — provides about two per cent of the daily calories an average person needs (based on 2,000 calorie diet); 11 per cent of protein; and just one per cent of total fat.

​However, Ms Bonnie Lau, Dietitian, Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at Tan Tock Seng Hospital warns against eating too much turkey skin (a source of saturated fat). Doing so can increase blood cholesterol. Her advice: prepare the turkey with spices, herbs, dried fruits, nuts and a variety of vegetables for a balanced meal.​

In Control

To prevent over-eating, Ms Estonie Yuen, Senior Dietitian, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics recommends portion control. “Adjust your intake of festive treats by using small plates and putting just a small amount on your plate,” she says. 

Ms Yuen also suggests doing away with store-bought gravy and cranberry sauce, the usual accompaniments to roast turkey. Gravy is generally high in fat and sodium. While cranberries contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, E and K as well as fibre, the fruit would have been boiled in sugared water to make the sauce. Half a cup of cranberry sauce contains 50g of sugar. 

If you insist on cranberry sauce, make your own by cooking fresh cranberries with healthier ingredients such as slivered almonds, orange juice, orange zest, ginger or cinnamon. The Internet provides many recipes for lighter, healthier versions of this sauce. 

Omitting the stuffing — which contains mostly bread and fat — is another way to make your turkey dish less calorie-laden. Instead, roast vegetables in the oven as a guilt-free side dish. 

In any case, the festive season is a good time to get into the habit of eating delicious and healthy fare. Says Ms Yuen, “Opt for less meat, more vegetables. It is all about making healthier food choices. Moderation is key.”

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