Is cholesterol in turkey?

thanksgiving turkeyWorried about the amount of cholesterol in turkey? Here are ways to enjoy the holidays and your low-cholesterol diet.

Sticking to a special diet is especially challenging during holidays and special occasions. Tables laden with food prove tempting, and you may feel like disregarding your diet for the day (or for several days).

But your health depends on you sticking to your low-cholesterol diet. This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy your meal or eat delicious foods. It simply means that you make healthy choices and enjoy those foods in moderation.

Cholesterol: In turkey and other Thanksgiving favorites

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that your body manufactures naturally. It is also found in animal products, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter. A diet high in cholesterol is one factor that may raise blood cholesterol levels. However, total dietary fat and saturated fat may play a bigger role in raising blood cholesterol than does dietary cholesterol alone. This is why you need to monitor your intake of all three: cholesterol, total fat and saturated fat.

Your turkey dinner, depending on how much you eat and the sides you add to your plate, may push you over your daily limit in just one meal. Consider these nutrient values for these Thanksgiving favorites.

Food item
(3-ounce portions, unless specified)
Calories Cholesterol (milligrams) Total fat (grams) Saturated fat (grams)
Turkey, light meat, roasted 119 73 1 0.3
Turkey, light meat with skin, roasted 139 81 3.9 1
Turkey, dark meat, roasted 137 95 3.6 1.2
Turkey, dark meat with skin, roasted 155 99 6 1.8
Deep-fried turkey, light meat 190 64 10.5 3.5
Ground turkey 200 87 11.2 2.9
Turkey gravy, 2 tablespoons 63 1 0.5 trace
Mashed potatoes (made with whole milk and butter), 1/2 cup 119 12 4.4 2
Bread stuffing, 1/2 cup 117 0 8.6 1.7
Cranberry sauce, 2 tablespoons 50 trace trace trace
Homemade pumpkin pie, 1/8 of a 9-inch pie 316 65 14 4.9

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database 2006, Release 19; Deep-fried turkey courtesy of the National Turkey Federation, 2006

Keep in mind that these values are for specific serving sizes. For turkey, that's 3 ounces — about the size of a deck of cards. So if you eat twice that amount, you need to also double your tally for fat and cholesterol.

The choice is yours

You can enjoy the holidays and your low-cholesterol diet too. Simply make healthy choices in terms of what you eat and how much you eat:

  • Roast the turkey with an herbed rub rather than butter.
  • Choose skinless light meat over dark meat.
  • Serve multiple side dishes that are based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as an apple salad with figs and walnuts, or garden peas with fresh mint.
  • Rather than a second helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, enjoy another serving of cranberry sauce or fruit salad.
  • Take a fresh approach to dessert with fruit-based options, such as an apple cranberry tart or pear bread pudding. If you can't bypass the traditional pumpkin pie, enjoy just a small slice.