By Heather Ashare, MPH for DietsInReview.com
In response to the fear of fat that has been driven into all of us, this Thanksgiving we may shun the dark turkey meat and instead pile our plates high with the white meat. But in our attempts to shave off a few calories, are we missing out on some key nutrients?
We decided to compare dark meat and white meat turkey and determine once and for all if the drumstick or the breast is the better option. Some surprising facts presented themselves in our research…
*Note: The serving size for our analysis is for a 3.5-ounce serving of turkey meat without skin—about the size of a deck of cards.
Round One: Nutrition
- Calories: White meat = 161 calories. Dark meat = 192 calories.
- Fat: White meat = 4g. Dark meat = 8g.
- Protein: White meat = 30g. Dark meat = 28g.
- Iron: White meat = 1.57 mg. Dark meat = 2.4 mg.
- Zinc: White meat = 2.08 mg. Dark meat = 4.3 mg.
- Folate: White meat = .01 mcg. Dark meat = 10 mcg.
Round Two: Taste and Leftover Potential
When it comes to taste, dark turkey meat offers an undeniably richer taste than white meat, but its higher fat content also lends itself to tasting a bit more on the slimy side, which may detract those who are sensitive to their food’s texture, or prefer lighter-tasting eats.
In regards to cooking with leftover turkey, dark meat’s higher fat content gives it a juicier flavor and therefore protects it from suffering from the dry taste that accompanies white meat turkey once it has sat in the refrigerator for a few days. Therefore, for a sandwich, salad or soup protein-punch, dark turkey meat is the clear winner. But if you’re looking to undo some of the gluttonous Thanksgiving Day damage, then you might want to reach for the white meat to save a few calories and fat.
Drumstick-lovers rejoice! Dark turkey meat delivers a much more nutrient-dense wallop than white turkey meat. With greater amounts of vitamin B like riboflavin, thiamine and folate and minerals like iron and zinc, dark turkey meat’s sullied reputation for being too high in fat deserves to be overturned considering these impressive nutrition numbers.
When it comes to calories and fat, the difference between the two is negligible. In fact, dark turkey meat contains a mere 30 calories more than white meat and just an additional four grams of fat. Place your fork down just one bite shy of finishing off that slice of pumpkin pie and you will have balanced out any extra calories you consumed by choosing dark meat over white.
To reap the powerful nutrition benefits of the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal, whichever kind of meat you select, just make sure to remove the skin and go easy on the gravy. These two items pile on the calories, so you’ll keep your dinner on the leaner side without them.
More from Diets in Review:
This week’s fit links from around the web:
- Don’t love your love handles? Here are four steps to follow to blast belly fat. — Fit Sugar
- Order up! Finally, a food truck that caters to the health-minded masses. — Diets in Review
- Get some fitspiration from this trailblazing female athlete. — FitBottomed Girls
- Your mix-and-match meal plan to plot a trimmer Thanksgiving dinner. — University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
- Have fun in the kitchen this weekend with this healthy soft pretzel recipe! — Daily Spark
- Does your pre-teen have high cholesterol? Docs might start screening soon. — HealthDay
For Sue Smith, a registered dietitian who moonlights as a turkey expert with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line every fall, Thanksgiving is truly the most wonderful time of the year. “It’s definitely my favorite holiday! As part of the Talk-Line, I’m able to be involved with so many Thanksgiving meals,” Smith says.
The most common question she tackles? How to properly thaw the bird. And who calls most commonly? “A lot of newlyweds who want to make their first holidays perfect,” she says. But the most memorable call during her 11-year stint as a talk-line expert was from a mother-in-law who was whispering into her phone while hiding in a closet. “She would stop talking when people walked by! She was afraid her daughter-in-law, who was a vegetarian, couldn’t cook the meal right,” Smith remembers. “But the mom called back later to tell us that the daughter did everything perfectly and the turkey was delicious!
Smith promises that your Thanksgiving turkey is nothing to worry about—in fact, it can be as simple as following her three tricks of the trade:
1. Stock up. How do you know what size bird to buy? Smith recommends allotting for 1 1/2 pounds per person. “That will be plenty for generous servings and leftovers.”
2. Follow the “three Ts.” That’s Smith’s trick to remember the three most important factors in preparing the perfect turkey: thaw, temperature and temp.
- Thaw. “Thaw your bird breast-side up in a pan on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Allow one day for every four pounds,” Smith says.
- Temperature. “Cook your turkey until a thermometer you insert in the thigh reads 180 degrees or 170 degrees in the breast,” she adds.
- Tent. Two-thirds of the way through the total cooking time, top your turkey with foil to allow the meat that is closer to the center of the bird to cook without burning the meat closer to the surface.
3. Ditch dry meat. When your turkey is finished in the oven, “pull it out and let it stand on the counter for about 20 minutes before carving, with the foil on top, to let the juices settle,” Smith says. This will lead to a moister, more flavorful slice.
If you need help with a turkey crisis during November and December, you can reach the experts at Butterball via phone (1-800-BUTTERBALL) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Keep checking in at The Fit Stop in the next two weeks for more Thanksgiving entertaining, cooking and leftover tips!
Now tell us: Do you have any Thanksgiving meal prep disaster stories? Come clean in the comments!