By Brad Morris

Stuffing is one of the most dangerous Thanksgiving foods when it comes to your diet – depending on how hard you hit the dessert. Unless you are preparing some specific alternative diet recipe, it’s mostly bread, and bread is calorically dense and nutritiously light. Maybe the best version of a bread-based stuffing would be one using 100 percent whole wheat fiber, but even then, the stuffing will be calorically dense enough you’ll easily blow your caloric budget. If you’re ready to enjoy the holidays but fear the extra pounds you’ll put on, choosing an alternative to traditional stuffing is a great step to healthy.

As always, I’m not a trained nutritionist, and if you have any concerns about changing your diet, you should always consult a doctor or nutritionist. Another caveat to this topic is that I don’t know your family and friends and don’t know their nutritional needs.

Choosing a Different Carb

If you feel like you need some kind of carb to complement the poultry, there’s two big possibilities: wild rice and quinoa. A cup of cooked wild rice has less than 200 calories – you’ll get that many calories in two ounces of stuffing – and is rich in dietary fiber and has more nutrients, meaning it will fill you up faster. The faster you fill up, the less likely you’ll be to overeat – something most of us are guilty of during the holidays.

Another option is quinoa. Quinoa is a little trickier to prepare in a way that is appealing to most people’s palates, so this is something you’d probably want to experiment with before trying for friends and family. Quinoa has more calories than wild rice but also has more protein, fat and fiber than wild rice, meaning it will satiate hunger even faster and help meet any micro goals you have. The increased fat means it isn’t right for every diet, so take that into consideration.

Fruits and Veggies

One of the best changes you can make to this is to replace stuffing with some kind of fruit or veggie mix. The benefits of this should be pretty clear: we lower the calories from our meal while increasing the nutritious value.

At our house, we usually serve our poultry on a bed of carrots, celery, onions, parsnips and oranges, all of which we bake with our poultry. You can experiment with which fruits and veggies you choose; with the right spices, you can get almost anything to work since poultry can be so versatile.

Keto and Paleo

One rabbit hole I haven’t had time to go down all the way is keto and paleo stuffing. There’s a lot online and use a variety of veggies and meats in the stuffing, especially sausage. If you’re watching your carbs or trying to avoid more processed foods, start your Thanksgiving prep early and look for a recipe or two you’d like to try.

Stuffing is not non-negotiable. I grew up with stuffing and still love it, but if you’re putting your health first this holiday season, the stuffing has to be one of the first things to go, and it will make you feel better come January when it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions!