Thanksgiving tip # 7: Lighten up with stuffing that won’t over-stuff

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

It’s a saying that playfully justifies one-time indulgence when in a certain environment. Fried Oreo at the State Fair? Extra cheese on my slice of pizza? Sausage and bread stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner?Hey, why not? ”When in Rome!”

That’s often true of Turkey Day. Of the Thanksgiving staples that tempt us each year, one in particular can make us feel particularly over-stuffed. The name says it all.

Some of the earliest uses of stuffing – or “dressing,” depending on what your grandmother might call it – date back to ancient Rome. While is not known exactly when stuffing was first used, Roman cook books contain recipes for meats “stuffed” with vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts and other nutrient-rich, hearty ingredients.

Unfortunately, today’s typical American Thanksgiving stuffing serves up plenty of “stuff” – and not much substance.

According to, just a ½ cup of bread (read: carb-packed) stuffing contains 410 calories, 261 of which come from fat. That’s what happens when you swap veggies for non-nutritive filler ingredients like white bread, chicken stock and butter, as many modern-day American recipes do.

This year, you can avoid the post-meal slump by swapping the When in Rome” mentality for a classic Roman tradition: stuffing – done the healthier way! With just a few simple ingredient adjustments, you can save calories without feeling deprived.

Lighten up your stuffing with these simple swaps:

  • Use wheat or whole-grain bread: Using this instead of white bread delivers wholesome nutrients instead of “empty” carbohydrates.
  • Pick low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth: Swapping regular broth for low-sodium can cut nearly 1,000 milligrams of sodium per cup. That’s nearly half your daily recommended daily intake.
  • Light butter: Go light, whether in quantity or substance. You might consider halving the recipe amount with real butter or using olive oil, a vegetable-based or unsalted spread instead of sweet cream or salted butter.
  • Add more vegetables (and fruit!): Consider vitamin-dense veggies and fruits like carrots, apples and cranberries.
  • Go sans meat: Try lean-cut, low-sodium or “faux” sausage and you won’t miss the salt and saturated fats found in regular sausage.
  • Spice it up: Skimp on added salt in favor of flavorful seasonings like rosemary, thyme and sage. Add pecans or walnuts on top for a nice crunch.

Feeling lighter?