Food Fight!: Turkey White Meat vs. Dark Meat

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World's Simplest Thanksgiving Turkey, sliced

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Food Network

Tara Donne, Food Network

It's the perpetual Thanksgiving debate: turkey legs or breast meat? We all have our taste preferences, but which one is healthier? Find out in this Thanksgiving food fight!

White Meat

Ditching the turkey skin is the first step to a lighter meal. Poultry skin is high in calories and fat. Keep the skin intact to cook the bird (it helps retain moisture) but remove before digging in.

Because this portion has a lower fat content, the white meat can dry out more easily. Less fat also means more protein, but don't get too excited: The protein content of white meat is only slightly higher than dark meat. Cuts of lean protein like turkey breast are also rich in vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin B6, iron, zinc and selenium.

Dark Meat

The higher fat content of the legs, wings and thighs (aka dark meat) imparts a lot of flavor, plus helps the meat stay moist. A 3-ounce portion of dark meat is slightly higher in cholesterol and contains an additional 20 calories and 2 grams more fat than an equal portion of white meat. The good (and often surprising) news is the type of fat; dark meat contains predominantly the heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated kinds. Dark meat also boasts a high mineral content and is more plentiful in iron, zinc and selenium.

Healthy Eats Winner: Breast meat is the smarter choice, but it's good to know that dark meat has more to offer than most folks give it credit for. (Ready to carve the bird? Get instructions here.)

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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