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

Is White Meat Healthier Than Red Meat?

A turkey done well impresses, both visually and taste-wise. What’s more, it has a nutritional edge over red meat such as beef or lamb. Red meat contains higher levels of calories and fat, especially saturated fat.

Turkey is white meat and 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.

Healthy Eating is Also About Portion 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.

Watch the Sugar for a More Balanced Meal

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 are an excellent source 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 having 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.

Make it a Healthier Meal without Stuffing

Omitting the stuffing — which contains mostly bread and fat — is another way to lower the calories and fat in your turkey dish. 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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