Jennifer Duhon, Miller, V. Todd
(11/21/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — In Louisiana and across America, consumers have been coping with rising grocery costs all year.
With Thanksgiving approaching, there’s finally good news for local shoppers preparing for a big holiday meal. The average cost in Louisiana of ingredients for a Turkey Day spread for 10 people is $50.43, according to the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation.
That’s down $6.98 from last year’s state average and $13.62 less than the 2022 national average.
This lower price of Thanksgiving dinner is welcomed this holiday season.
“As costs decline, we can focus on the true meaning of the holiday while keeping our calorie, fat and sodium intake in mind,” said Jennifer Duhon, a registered dietitian and LSU AgCenter regional coordinator.
She suggests using the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate as a sensible guide to a healthful holiday meal. MyPlate suggests filling half of each plate with fruits and vegetables.
According to the 2020 to 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, about 90% of the U.S. population does not meet the recommendation for vegetables, and 80% consumes too little fruit. However, there is plenty of room for produce on holiday menus, Duhon said.
Green bean casserole is a family tradition for many, and green beans are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and folate.
“To lighten up the calories, fat and sodium, replace the cream-based, canned soup with plain Greek yogurt,” Duhon said. “This will give a tangy taste and added protein.”
Sweet potatoes are another Louisiana tradition. Instead of a calorie-laden casserole, Duhon suggests opting for a simple baked recipe.
“Sweet potatoes are a low-calorie, fat-free, nutrient-dense source of healthy carbohydrates, fiber and many vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C,” she said.
As for the star of the Thanksgiving meal, turkey is an excellent choice for lean protein. One 3-ounce serving of turkey provides 135 to 170 calories, 22 grams of protein and numerous other vitamins and minerals, according to AgCenter nutrition agent and ServSafe certified instructor Quincy Vidrine.
She dispelled a longstanding myth about the bird.
“Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which you may have heard of causing sleepiness after the big meal,” Vidrine said. “But turkey does not have a high enough amount to cause sleepiness on its own. The feeling of a food coma is most likely to overindulgence of many different dishes.”
Vidrine said a great way to bring balance to your day is physical activity. She suggests looking for a local “turkey trot,” which can be anything from a fun, 1-mile run to a full 5K. If your community does not have one planned, she said, take the lead in starting one.
Thawing the turkey seems to be what consumers struggle with most, according to Vidrine. She said to never to thaw a turkey on the counter or in the sink. The USDA suggests thawing in the refrigerator, which provides a safe, consistent temperature.
Vidrine suggests planning to allow one day for every 4 to 5 pounds of weight. Thus, a 20-pound turkey should take about five days to thaw in the refrigerator.
Duhon said to be mindful not to cross contaminate. Prep the turkey away from ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce. Never rinse turkeys or any other poultry, as it increases the risk of cross contamination.
Finally, both Duhon and Vidrine said to make sure to cook turkey to the proper internal temperature: a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. That 20-pound turkey will take approximately 4 to 4 1/2 hours to cook, unstuffed.
If you have questions about whether the turkey is done or is safe to eat, remember that the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline is available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time Monday through Friday at 1-888-674-6954. On Thanksgiving Day, experts will be available to take calls from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The average cost in Louisiana of ingredients for a Turkey Day spread for 10 people is $50.43, according to the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. That’s down $6.98 from last year’s state average and $13.62 less than the 2022 national average. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter