Published on 11/06/08

Take the holidays but leave the turkey

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Downing turkey sandwiches on a near-daily basis over the holidays may have some people reaching for any alternative. There are several healthy substitutes for those who suffer turkey overload, says a University of Georgia expert.

Don’t be afraid of real turkey. It doesn’t have to be that dry, overcooked nightmare, says Connie Crawley, a UGA Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist.

Most store-bought turkeys come injected with a salty, fatty basting solution and are pre-frozen, she said. But fresh turkey has a stronger poultry taste. “Real turkey really tastes good if it’s prepared correctly,” she said. “It really is different. It has a subtle, more flavorful turkey taste.”

For those who want to stay away from turkey no matter what its precooked condition, Crawley recommends:

Fresh ham. It’s lower in sodium because it hasn’t been brined. It’s great marinated in wine, onions and garlic and then roasted in the oven.

Cornish hens. The tiny chickens are easier to roast than a whole turkey and are more attractive on individual plates. Glaze the bird with apple or orange juice and serve it on rice pilaf or stuffing. One hen feeds two people.

Quail. It has a more gamey poultry taste. Don’t overcook quail, or it will be tough. Sweet potato and polenta are great quail side dishes.

Trout. Grilled, broiled or filleted, it has a rich flavor that goes well with fall vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, greens and winter squash.

Fish is a good option for those families that include both meat-eaters and vegetarians. Some vegetarians eat fish. It’s always best to check with the individual first to make sure.

You can totally skip the traditional holiday table, she said, and eat something completely different.

“I have had holidays where I have made Mexican food,” she said. “You don’t just have to eat turkey.”

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.