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Healthy Substitutes for Gravy

Fitday Editor

When most major holidays roll around, you can be sure that the gravy boat will often make an appearance. Gravy is a delicious addition to flavor meat, poultry and vegetables. However, most packaged as well as homemade varieties contain hidden fats, calories, salt and sugar. So in pouring on the gravy, you are unwittingly making your food unhealthy. In order to get the same flavor and moisture that gravy adds to a dish, you can work with a few healthier ideas using things you likely already have on hand in the kitchen.

Seasoned Yogurt

When looking for a healthier gravy alternative, seasoned yogurt is one of the best substitutes. Yogurt is a great source of calcium, a micronutrient essential for bone health and many other body functions. Plain yogurt also has a mild taste that lends itself well to a variety of dishes. It also provides a clean base, allowing you to experiment with different herbs and spices depending on what your recipe calls for. Aim for either a low fat or Greek variety of yogurt for the healthiest mock-gravies. These provide you with the same nutrients as regular yogurt, but with fewer added sugars, fat and calories.

Adding in some low-sodium bullion will result in a product that is smooth, creamy and that has the same mild "meaty" taste typically associated with traditional gravies. To add additional bursts of flavor, fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary and thyme are great options to add a complexity to the yogurt. Seasoned yogurts can be served either chilled or at room temperature. However, avoid leaving the yogurt out for long periods of time as this can cause the yogurt to curdle.

Puréed Alternatives

For a low-carb option, take a low-sodium stock base and purée it with a variety of vegetables. These will help add substance to the sauce, while also giving you a higher nutrient profile than the butter, flour and other thickeners that are typically used in gravy. Other puréed alternatives such as a pesto or a tomato sauce are additional ways to boost the nutrient profile of your dish, without packing on extra calories.

If you're skeptical about throwing out the gravy boat altogether, try starting out with just a healthier version of the original. Many traditional gravy recipes have added butter, which can significantly add up the calories and fat of the final product. Instead, try incorporating oil, a slightly healthier option. You could also base your gravy or sauce off of a low-sodium stock or broth, rather than the classic pan drippings.

Overall, gravy is just one of many different sauces that can bring flavor and moisture to your plate of Thanksgiving turkey. Whether it's a homemade parsley purée, cranberry ketchup or a classic pesto, there are countless, healthier, alternatives out there just itching to find a spot on your table.


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Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.

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