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Millions and millions of turkeys are consumed between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but what about all those months that stretch after the holiday season? While the turkey may as well be the national symbol for Thanksgiving, there isn’t any reason you shouldn’t incorporate it into your regular meal plan. 

The Budget-Friendly White Meat 

It’s often less costly than chicken, but is often overlooked as a healthy source of protein. 

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the link between turkey and its high content of tryptophan making you feel sleepy. Despite its reputation, tryptophan actually has a wealth of health benefits including elevating moods, regulating appetite and aiding with sleep. 

Once the skin is removed, turkey is also a great, low-fat source of protein (32 grams per four ounces of meat) and can help regulate blood sugar, as it falls on the low end of the glycemic index scale. It also contains selenium, which is known to help thyroid and immune system function. 

How to Select   

As with chicken, you have several cuts of turkey to choose from including legs, thighs, breasts, wings (much larger than chicken wings) and ground turkey. The breasts contain white meat, while legs and thighs are composed of darker meat. Ground turkey may be one or the other, or a combination of both white and dark meat.

You can choose to buy fresh or frozen. Frozen meat generally loses moisture as it thaws, so meat that has never been frozen will likely retain more moisture and be juicier. 

Certified vs. Free-Range

Certified organic turkey means that the birds were fed organic feed, while free-range indicates only that the turkey has access to the outdoors while being raised. Check your local grocery store for organic turkey options. If you want even more information about how your meat was raised, look for a local meat farmer or see if your farmer’s market features a local seller. 

How to Use It

The versatile meat can be used in soup, chilli, in tacos, burgers, meatballs and as a lower-fat substitute for nearly any other dish you would use ground beef in. Barbecued or grilled turkey breast can be eaten on its own or sliced and used in salads or on sandwiches. 

How to Prep

As with any poultry, turkey should always be thawed in the refrigerator or cold water and never at room temperature. It should be stored in a container or on a dish that will catch any juices that leak as it begins to thaw. 

If you have purchased turkey that still has the skin intact, cook with the skin on and then remove, as the skin may help seal in moisture and help prevent the meat from drying out. A whole turkey will be roasted for approximately 15 minutes per pound.

Ground turkey and pieces such as breasts, wings or thighs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, while a whole turkey should reach 185 degrees Fahrenheit before being removed from the heat source. 

As is the case with any meat, be sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey or its juices and be sure to keep it away from other foods. Do not put cooked meat on the same plate that held uncooked meat unless it has been thoroughly cleaned in soapy hot water first. Wash any utensils or dishes used on uncooked turkey. 

Turkey as a First Meat for Babies 

For younger babies 

Turkey is a great first meat for babies, as like chicken, it is gentle on the stomach. Ground turkey or pieces can be puréed with liquid and combined with white or sweet potatoes or vegetables such as squash. 

For advanced babies 

As your baby’s palate grows, use spices and new flavours with the turkey such as sage or cilantro.

How to Store 

Uncooked turkey should be kept in the coldest part of your refrigerator and can be stored for up to two days. Cooked turkey can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days. Uncooked turkey that will not be used within 48 hours should be frozen.

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