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Good Question: Which Thanksgiving Food Is Healthier?

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We like the family time. We love the Thanksgiving food.  But Thanksgiving dinner is all about choices: do I go with white meat or dark?  Sweet potatoes or mashed?  Joey Stepnick e-mailed asking: Which of those choices is healthier?

“Thanksgiving dinner gives you all the calories you’d normally eat in a day,” said Heidi Schmidt, a registered dietitian with HealthPartners in Bloomington.

• White meat versus dark meat

Typically, dark meat has the perception of being far more unhealthy than white meat, and there’s some truth to that idea, said Schmidt.

“Both with no skin, let’s start there. Then white meat, white meat is better,” she said.

According to HealthPartners, a turkey day 6 ounce serving of white meat is 300 calories.  Dark meat is fattier because it’s where the bird’s muscles do most of their work.  A dark meat serving is about 340 calories.

Not a tremendous difference, “but those 40 calories can add up,” said Schmidt.

As far as other supposed benefits of one meat versus the other, Schmidt said that they’re both proteins, and both have similar health benefits.

• Mashed potatoes vs. sweet potatoes

A lot of our families serve mashed Idaho potatoes along side sweet potatoes.  Obviously, if you make your sweet potatoes with brown sugar and gravy, it’s going to be worse than mashed potatoes and butter.

Prepared with butter, HealthPartners said that both are 150 calories.

When you add ½ cup of gravy, you double the mashed potato calorie content to 300.

Sweet potatoes are a super-food with other health benefits.

“So if you’re eating Thanksgiving dinner to prevent cancer,” laughed Schmidt, “I’d go sweet potato. There’s more vitamin b, antioxidants.”

• Stuffing vs. green bean casserole

“It hurts me to say this, but stuffing, as long as its not prepared with sausage” is better, said Schmidt.

She said a typical serving of stuffing has 200 calories.  Green bean casserole has more like 240 calories.

“Green bean casserole is made with a cream soup, half and half, butter, if you’re looking for calories, stuffing is the better way to go,” she said.

• Pumpkin pie vs. fruit pies (apple or cherry)

“The pumpkin pie is going to win,” said Schmidt.

Pumpkin has 300 calories per slice, while a slice of cherry or apple pie has 375, she explained.  There’s far more sugar in fruit pies than there is in a typical pumpkin pie, plus many fruit pies have a crust underneath and another crust on top.

• Walk off your meal or play Nintendo Wii

For once, someone is going to tell you to play a video game.

“Get out the Wii. Have fun with the family. It’s a great idea,” said Schmidt.  The Wii is a better aerobic exercise, because you’re moving more than just your legs, she said.  And it’s more likely to happen.  On Thanksgiving night, who’s going to go walk 23 miles to burn off the 2,300 calories you’ll probably eat?

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