Stuffing, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, Thanksgiving, November 9, 2009

Homemade Basic Stuffing
Thanksgiving turkey would be lost without stuffing (or dressing, if you prefer it that way). But sticks of butter and pounds of sausage are not mandatory ingredients. Here are a few ways to slim down this holiday favorite and some creative additions to try.

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Traditional Stuffing
One cup of traditional homemade stuffing made with white bread and no meat contains 325 calories, 16 grams of fat and less than 2 grams of fiber. Toss in piles of bacon or sausage and you’ve added at least 100 to 150 calories a serving. That might not sound like much for a big holiday spread, but keep in mind that this is a side dish — you still want to leave room for turkey and dessert.

If you’re into the boxed stuffing, its not unreasonable — calorie-wise — when you actually stick to the portions listed on the label. A half cup of packaged stuffing is about 160 calories and 4 grams of fat, but most folks eat double that. That said, why even settle for the preservative-filled boxed version when you can create your own easily?

The Lighter Side
If you’re going for traditional stuffing, a few simple swaps can do the trick. Omit the meats or use about a half-ounce per person to add flavor. To maintain moisture, you don’t necessarily need an entire stick of butter; instead halve your butter and up the chicken stock a bit. To add some fiber, use a soft 100% whole wheat bread instead or a combo of white and wheat bread. No matter how you make it, stick to portions that are around a half or a third of cup per person.

Winning Combinations
Using wild rice, veggies, nuts and even dried fruit can add some pizzazz without too much fat or calories. If you want to take a less traditional route, here are some delicious combinations:

  • Sweet potatoes and lentils
  • Dates and bulgur (recipe below)
  • Apples and cranberries
  • Spinach and artichoke

On My Table: Sausage, Dates and Bulgur Stuffing
I pull out this non-traditional stuffing recipe every year and the family raves.
Serves: 8

1 cup dry bulgur (buckwheat)
3 cups boiling fat-free chicken stock
12 pitted dates, chopped
2 small turkey sausages, chopped (about 4 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped celery
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bulgur in a large bowl. Pour 2 cups of boiling chicken stock and let sit 15 minutes. Drain out excess liquid. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onions until soft and translucent. Add chopped garlic, chopped turkey sausage and sauté until brown. Pour skillet mixture over bulgur and mix. Add chopped dates, chopped celery, chopped parsley, chopped thyme and lemon juice. Mix to evenly distribute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place in a baking pan and coat with nonstick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until lightly browned.

Nutrition Info (per 1/2 cup):
Calories: 232
Total Fat: 5 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 45 grams
Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 366 milligrams
Cholesterol: 9 milligrams
Fiber: 6 grams

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Comments (12)

  1. Krikri says:

    Going non-traditional enables us make new things to enjoy. The white bread stuffing gives us better alternative over traditional options.

  2. Amy says:

    Is the nutrition data on the Basic Stuffing accurate? It seems quite low at 149 calories per cup!

  3. tamidor says:

    Hi Amy,
    The nutritional information per serving in the Basic Stuffing is 170 calories, 7 grams of fat and 3.5 grams of saturated fat. Each recipe we post on is analyzed by a registered dietitian (typically myself or Dana) to make sure that it fits our criteria. The site where the recipe is taken from uses the USDA database which isn't as exact as my professional software, so I get the most accurate numbers. You can also try and analyze it on your own by going to or

  4. Cheryl says:

    Is there any kind of substitution for the dates. I don't think anyone in my family would like them. The rest of the stuffing recipe sounds great.

  5. AdrienneAnn says:

    I use some butter to saute the celery & onions–just enough to keep it moist & then I use chicken broth to moisten the bread. I also grate a tart apple, into the celery & onions when they are cooking. It disappears, but adds great flavor & moisture. I use a combo. of leftover bread (some white, wheat, rolls whatever) & cornbread.

  6. Reenie says:

    I make a double batch of true old fashioned cornbread (corn meal and corn flour, no white or wheat flour in it!) and cut the cubes so they dry out. I use a small amount of broth to saute the onions and celery, add in sage and some other herbs, melt soy margarine into broth, mix the wet ingredients with the dry and bake in casserole dishes, not in the bird. Nice crunchy dry dressing to soak up the gravy and none of that nasty tasting sausage or bacon in it. With leftovers, I mix in chopped turkey with the stuffing, add a bit more broth, and it makes a nice quick lunch.

  7. jenni says:

    i put cranberrys,apples.pears and pomagranite seeds in my whole wheat stuffing,and i use no salt boullion

  8. Lorrie says:

    dried cranberries are wonderful in dressing/stuffing

  9. EDNA says:

    I like to put raisins in my stuffing. I never use meats in it though. The turkey is the meat!

  10. Laur says:

    Grating tart apple to add flavor to the stuffing sounds like a great idea. I'll have to try that this year.

  11. EDNA says:

    I thought that white bread 'was' the traditional way to make it. It's what I always used until, as an alternative, I started using the whole wheat & some rye instead.

  12. EDNA says:

    I noticed that not one recipe for homemade stuffing included eggs… I wonder why. I always used eggs in mine & always cooked it in the bird until about 20 yrs. ago when my kids were not home anymore. Then I switched to the easy way for as much as I could. But I also never used butter or broth in my stuffing. It was always crispy but very moist & my family lived to talk about it. What planet did I come from??? LOL!

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