Lean Protein Spotlight: Turkey

The other day, I roasted a 15-pound turkey, but I was only serving two people. What was I thinking?

Actually it’s a simple answer.

Before Thanksgiving last year, our grocery store offered whole turkeys at $0.37 per pound if you bought $35 worth of groceries. I had to take them up on that deal, which meant that I had two turkeys in the freezer. Recently, I decided to cook one of them for guests, but they cancelled. Since I already had the turkey thawing in the fridge, I cooked it anyway. That’s the easy part: no dressing, no basting, cook until the thickest parts reach 165 degrees F. Results: a lot of food for two people.

Frozen turkeys will keep for a long time if held below zero degrees. They’re usually packed in air- and water-resistant plastic wraps that help prevent loss of quality during freezer storage. The general recommendation for freezer storage is one year, if the food has been frozen that whole time. This is a quality recommendation and not a food safety deadline.

According to the National Turkey Federation, removed bones typically reduce the weight of the turkey by 25% and my turkey was fairly true to that estimate. I weighed the bones after I cooked them down for soup and picked the meat off, and I had 3.3 pounds of “waste” (there was additional fat and moisture I couldn’t weigh) from my 15-pound turkey. We ended up with about 10 pounds of meat at around $0.50 a pound. What a deal!

The usual recommendation is to purchase one pound of turkey (on the bone) for each person served. This is geared for holiday meals with all the trimmings and to save leftovers too. With my February turkey, we had a few meals of roast turkey and then two big pots of soup. We also had lots of leftovers for sandwiches at a much better price, taste, and quality than that expensive processed turkey meat in the deli. Plus, I froze a few packages of cooked turkey for quick meals later. The recommendation for frozen cooked turkey is to eat it within three months.

The US Dietary Guidelines suggest choosing lean or low-fat meat and poultry as your protein source. Turkey is lower in fat and calories than many other foods in the protein group and can be a good choice. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 3 ounces of whole turkey (meat only) contains 135 calories, 24 grams of protein, and only 3.26 grams of fat.

Even if you can’t get as good a price as I did, roasting your own turkey or turkey parts any time of the year can be an easy job with lots of nutritional benefits.  Why wait until Thanksgiving?

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Portion Control Activity Ideas

Portion control is often key to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

We’ve all heard about the many benefits of a healthful eating pattern that incorporates proper portion control.

Making portion control something that is accessible and appealing to your clients, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge.

That’s why my team and I created these beautiful portion control plates!

Portion Control Plate

We designed these plates to help consumers stay on track when it comes to maintaining a healthful diet, practicing portion control, getting regular exercise, and staying hydrated.

By using this plate to dish up their meals, people can save up to 60% of their daily calories per meal (compared to just loading a plate by eye like most people do). This plate keeps foods in the proper proportions and portion sizes, as recommended by MyPlate.

The inside of the plate guides people to balancing their plates with:

  • 3 ounces of lean protein
  • 1/2 cup of cooked grains
  • 1 cup of vegetables
  • 1 cup of fruits

Meanwhile, the rim of the plate is full of reminders to sip the right kind of beverage and get moving from time to time!

The beautiful color pattern of the plates makes them attractive for home, picnics, the office, and parties. Plus, they work beautifully in wellness fairs, cooking demos, classrooms, and one-on-one consultations.

Load up that plate

To celebrate the release of these wonderful nutrition education materials, I want to share two activities that you can do with these plates today!

Activity #1: Fill the Portion Plate

What you’ll need:

  • Enough portion control plates for everyone
  • Magazines
  • Scissors

What you’ll do:

  1. Assemble your group, pass out the plates, and make sure everyone has access to scissors and magazines. Explain that they are going to cut out pictures of food and then sort them into the appropriate areas of the portion control plate.
  2. Offer your participants some time to cut out their selections, then explain the next part of the activity.
  3. Pick a food group and call it out. The participants must find a food that fits into that group (from their collection of magazine images) and place it on the correct section of the plate, holding up both the picture and the plate so that you can see it. Award points for speed and accuracy, correcting any misconceptions that may crop up.
  4. After the game is over, you discuss the results and let the class go or add a twist. For the latter, see who can find the healthiest food to fit in a food group the fastest. Discuss. What makes each food a good fit for its food group? What nutrients does it contain? How much saturated fat, added sugars, or sodium is in the food?

Portion Control Planning:

What you’ll need:

  • 1 portion control plate per person
  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils

What you’ll do:

  1. Pass out the plates to each participant. Give everyone pens and pieces of paper too.
  2. Have everyone examine the food groups on the plate. What are the portion sizes like? How do the proportions work? Discuss what they notice.
  3. Have people list the days of the week across the tops of their papers. Using the plates, have them plan meals that would fill the plates in the proper portions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on each day of the week.
  4. Once everyone has their ideas mapped out, ask for volunteers to share their plans. What inspired them? Why? Which ideas are the best for a healthful eating pattern? What makes them healthful?
  5. Once your discussion is finished, let your participants keep their plates, and, if you’ll see them again, check in on their progress. Do they like using these new plates? Why or why not?

I hope you liked this resource spotlight!

Here are some other great portion control materials — which will make your life easier?

Looking for Healthy Meals

Healthy MealOkay, I’ve got a story for you today. My husband and I were recently eating lunch — I had made us each a quick salad with lettuce, apples, some thawed frozen berries, avocado, leftover grilled chicken and homemade balsamic vinaigrette. As we ate, my husband commented, “It’s amazing that you look in the refrigerator and see salad; when I look in the refrigerator I just see soda.”

That seems to capture a common sentiment in a nutshell. How do people plan menus and think about turning what’s available into a healthful meal? Is this something that’s intuitive or can it be learned?

For me it’s easy, because I love to cook and experiment with food. But what about people who really don’t like to prepare meals or don’t have these skills?

All home management experts say that planning meals ahead of time is the number one way to save time, have balanced meals, control the food budget, avoid food waste, and reduce trips to the grocery store. However, I’m realistic enough to know that most families don’t do this.

So, how can we, as health educators, make this easier for our clients?

Here are a few of my latest ideas…

  • Try planning just a few meals a week instead of setting up a program for all seven days. If this works, then perhaps you could develop a menu rotation.
  • Have everyone in the family contribute their menu ideas and meal likes and dislikes.
  • If other members of your family are just learning to cook, or don’t yet have a wide recipe repertoire, having menus posted can help them learn and develop their cooking and menu-planning skills.
  • Keep MyPlate in mind as you go. We all know the concept of trying to fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, so now it’s time to put it into action. Remember to fill the other half with a lean protein and a whole grain, then add low-fat dairy on the side to round out the meal.
  • Post your planned menus. That way, everyone in the family knows what’s for dinner. This could help the first one home to get dinner started too!
  • Make sure that the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are stocked with the foods that you need for these menus. It’s especially important to have a variety of fruits and vegetables available for meals and snacks. After all, how can you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables if there aren’t any fruits and vegetables in the house?

Try these tips and who knows? Maybe the next time your family looks into the fridge, they’ll see dinner!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a free PDF handout with a few of the top tips from today’s post…

Healthy Meals

Here are some more healthy meal resources, brought to you by the Nutrition Education Store!

Healthy Kitchen Poster Set

Learn to Cook Workbook

Heart Smart Cooking PowerPoint Presentation

Plan a Meal Together

Planning a family meal together can be a great experience for kids and parents alike. You can turn an everyday dinner into a dinner party with just a few simple steps…

Preparation Timeline

Plan your menu.

  • Check out cookbooks, websites, and family recipes for inspiration.
  • Remember to balance the plates appropriately and include lots of fruits and vegetables.

Make lists of everything you need.

  • Ingredients that you need to locate (ie pantry staples that are probably somewhere in your house, like pasta, rice, and spices).
  • Ingredients that you need to buy.
  • Equipment that you need to have at the ready.

Go shopping for the ingredients and equipment that you need.

On the Day of Your Party…

  • Prep everything (that you can) ahead of time — pre-chop, even pre-measure if possible.
  • Cook the food.
  • Serve it to your guests.

Elements of Stylish Gatherings

If you want to have a remarkable meal together, a few simple changes can really make a differenec.

• Set the table with…

  • All the silverware that you would need to eat all of the dishes.
  • Nice glasses for water.
  • Napkins — decide whether you need cloth or paper options.

• Consider adding…

  • A nice centerpiece — try flowers, candles, or an arrangement of glasses.
  • Placemats.
  • A tablecloth.
  • A runner over the tablecloth.

Basic Dinner Party Building Blocks

Number of Guests

  • A dinner party typically involves 6 to 8 people, but make exceptions as you see fit.

Courses

  • A simple dinner party may limit itself to salad or soup, a main course, and dessert.
  • You could also include amuse-bouches, appetizers, or even palate cleansers.