` The DASH Diet at Thanksgiving

The DASH Diet at Thanksgiving

Holiday Party

We tend to think of the holidays as a time when healthy diets go out the window. However, it can be easy to stay on track with the DASH diet on Thanksgiving.

Remember the DASH diet principles: lots of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, poultry, low fat and nonfat dairy, bean and nuts, whole grains, and limited saturated fats and sweets. Use the following tips to make your Thanksgiving very DASH-friendly. And check out one of our favorite menus from previous Thanksgivings.

A Few Thanksgiving Cooking Tips

Cornbread stuffing with cranberries

For the stuffing, I add larger than recommended quantities of the "seasoning vegetables" (carrots, celery, and onions), and throw in a handful (or more) of cranberries along with some coarsely chopped walnuts. This packs in extra servings of some of the key DASH foods (veggies, fruits, and nuts) that benefit your blood pressure. This year I made the dressing in a bundt pan, and it worked out great! It allowed the dressing to be fully cooked throughout, without being dry at the edges and soggy in the middle. And yes, I always do the stuffing out-of-the-bird. When you cook a stuffed bird, the roasting time needs to be longer, to get the dressing heated to165° F, which causes the white meat from the over-cooked bird to be dry.

While cooking the bird, I made turkey broth from the neck and giblets, using the recipe for chicken broth from The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook. I made the sautéed seasoning veggies for both the broth and the stuffing at the same time; spooned some into the broth, leaving the rest for the stuffing. Easy peasy!

One more trick. Tired of peeling all those potatoes? Bake some Idaho spuds at 400° F. Cut in half when done (about 1 hour), and scoop out the potato flesh. Make your mashed potatoes with your regular recipe. You can also do this for making mashed sweet potatoes. Those I roast on a baking sheet with a layer of aluminum foil underneath the potatoes. (Just makes clean up easier.) I cook sweet potatoes at 400° F until I see a little sugar seepage coming out. Usually it takes about 1 hour for large potatoes.


  • Raw veggies on a platter with a hummus dip.
  • Sliced yellow, orange, and red bell peppers, with a dip made from nonfat sour cream and salsa, or with guacamole.
  • Unsalted nuts.
  • Apple and pear slices with grapes.

Thanksgiving dinner

  • Turkey breast (with the skin removed) is very low in saturated fat. If you cook the stuffing separately from the bird, you are more likely to have a moist turkey breast. (Stuffing the bird means you need longer cooking times, which may result in dry breast meat.) Thanksgiving turkey
  • Make a low fat gravy by using a skimmer cup to separate out most of the fat from the turkey drippings. Make your gravy high flavor by first sauteing some onions or shallots with some garlic. Then add some red wine, and boil to burn off the alcohol, while leaving great flavor. Add skimmed meat drippings. Use instant flour (Wondra) to thicken hot gravy.
  • Use low sodium, nonfat chicken broth for more flavor in gravy and for moistening stuffing which is cooked in a casserole.
  • Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are great sources of potassium, a key nutrient in the DASH diet. Use skim milk and light margarine for mashing.
  • Fill your plate with extra helpings of vegetables, to avoid overdoing calories.
  • Cranberry sauce is a great source of antioxidants, which are great for your heart.
  • Choose whole grain rolls.


  • Pumpkin pie can count as a vegetable. For a low fat recipe, see our web site at https://dashdiet.org/dash_diet_recipes.html. 2019 pumpkin pie
  • Similarly, apple pie will provide a serving of fruit. Add some cranberries to make it special, and really on track for Thanksgiving.


  • Limit alcohol to moderate amounts to keep calories under control, and help you manage your blood pressure. Women should limit to 1 glass and men to 2 glasses per day. Fill your wine glass with water, so you have something to drink without overdoing alcohol. Or have a glass of skim milk to add another key DASH diet food.

Additional Tips

  • If you are eating at someone else's house, bring a vegetable dish or vegetable appetizers, so that you can be sure to have a healthy dinner.
  • Exercise on Thanksgiving Day. Go for a walk, walk the dog, shoot some hoops, or play touch football. If it snows (which it may do in the North), go out and romp in the snow. Create a new tradition with some family active time on the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

from Marla Heller, MS, RD