In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

November 25, 2014

Talking Turkey — Your ‘In the Loop guide to Thanksgiving’

By In the Loop

ThanksgivingDinner760If history and the flood of grocery store ads filling our mailboxes are any indication, a couple of days from now, we'll once again gather with family and friends to celebrate another Thanksgiving. We've started our holiday celebration a little early this year, so we're leaving you all with a reprise of the In the Loop guide to Thanksgiving we put together in 2012 to make sure your holiday meal runs smoothly from start to finish. Happy eating!

Putting it together

Thanksgiving dinner can add up to 4,500 calories worth of enjoyment, according to the calorie counters. That's as much as most of us should eat in two days. So if you're looking for a strategy other than not eating the rest of the day or working it off afterward (more on that later), consider the advice of Mayo dietitian Katherine Zeratsky. In a blog post titled "Thanksgiving Dinner – Focus on quality, not quantity," she shares what traditional Thanksgiving fare is actually good for you and some tweaks you can make to the menu (and your techniques) that might make you feel a little better about indulging.

You also can find a bountiful selection of healthy recipes for thanksgiving on -- from pumpkin soup to wild rice stuffing, from sweet carrots to rustic apple-cranberry tart. All of the taste, but less fat, calories and sodium. The "less filling" part is up to you.

Getting it done

Mayo came out big on the preparation front with a video featuring [former] Mayo Clinic Chef Richard Johnson, who shows us how to take our turkey from the grocery store to the table, including how to properly select, thaw, prepare, roast and serve a turkey. Here are some of his tips for knocking this year's bird out of the park:

  • Big bird? Experts suggest that one-pound of meat per person is a pretty good starting point. That may seem like a lot, but some of the weight will be lost when the bird is carved.
  • Avoid the cold shoulder. If your turkey's frozen, it's best to thaw that bird in the refrigerator. Leave it in the wrapping, place it on a tray or plate, and then let it defrost one full day for every four pounds. For speed-thawing, place the frozen bird in a sink full of clean, cold water, which should take around 30 minutes for every pound of meat.
  • Clean it up, raise it up. Remove the giblets and rinse the bird inside and out with cold water. Pat dry, and throw some raw vegetables on the bottom of the roasting pan. Besides giving the turkey a nice place to rest while it cooks, the vegetables will also help keep the turkey off the bottom of the pan while allowing air to circulate around the bird for better, more-even cooking. They'll also double as a healthy side dish. See video.
  • Cook. Heat your oven to a cool 450 degrees and cook your turkey for 30 minutes to help sear in the juices and brown the skin. After 30 minutes, lower your oven temp to 275 degrees and cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees. See video. Then let it rest for 20 minutes.
  • Carve it up. This is where the magic happens. To do it right, and wow your dinner guests with your mad carving skills, watch Chef Richard's demo. Our words can't do justice to all that wing popping and cross-grain carving.

The rest is in your hands. May the force be with you.

Working it off

If your pants survive Thanksgiving, you may want to fit into them again some day. So, let's say you went traditional, put on the feedbag, and need to burn off an extra 2,000 calories. We're no math whizzes, but here are some estimated exercise times to get you there:

  • High-impact aerobics 4 hours
  • Hiking 5 hours
  • Rope jumping 5 hours
  • Stair treadmill 3 hours
  • Walking at 3.5 mph 5 hours
  • Bowling 9 hours

For more calorie-burning inspiration, see the exercise for weight loss chart on You're welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving from the whole team at In the Loop. We'll see you at the gym. In the meantime, share your Thanksgiving survival tips and share this story on the In the Loop blog.

Tags: Community, Healthy eating, Katherine Zeratsky, Richard Johnson

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