5.1 grams of fat and 147 calories.
The healthiest way to prepare turkey
How you prepare your turkey matters, Champagne notes. Seasonings and marinades can add sodium. And if you consume a fried bird with the skin on, “it will obviously contribute significantly more calories and fat.”
Regular consumption of fried food has been linked to cardiovascular problems. Champagne says most of the oil in a fried turkey ends up absorbed by the skin. So again, you can avoid the extra fat and calories by not eating the skin.
“The critical point is to properly fry the turkey,” she says, by maintaining the correct cooking temperature during the frying process. “Use healthy fats, like peanut or canola oil, and don’t allow the turkey to soak in the oil after cooking.”
Turkey is famously a source of the essential amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body synthesize protein but gets the blame for the post-feast sleepiness some people feel. That’s mostly an unfair rap, according to Champagne.
Roasted, skinless turkey has levels of tryptophan that are close to roast beef or canned tuna and less per ounce than cheddar cheese, she says. “It is more likely that the typically large amounts of carbohydrates in the meal provide the most contribution to sleepiness.”
Turkey’s growing popularity in recent years has meant that, unlike certain jolly old elves and their sleighs, it comes around more than once a year in many households. That’s not a bad thing. Turkey and other types of poultry are part of a healthy dietary pattern, according to federal dietary guidelines.
What you should avoid
Not all turkey products are created equal, Champagne says. Fans of turkey sausage, turkey bacon and other processed varieties need to check the labels.
“Generally, all processed meat products, including turkey, contribute a significant amount of sodium,” she says. Higher sodium contributes to high blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular events. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. The AHA’s newest guidance on a heart-healthy diet emphasizes choosing lean cuts of meat and poultry over processed forms.
Champagne says she eats ground turkey on occasion. “I always choose the lower-fat ones, which don’t have skin added, and I always check the sodium content as well.”
Healthy holiday eating is about more than turkey, of course. But Champagne’s verdict is that turkey fits nicely into your plans.
“Use portion control, and consider eating the meat without the skin, especially if you indulge on a portion larger than the recommended 3-ounce serving.”