10 Tricks for a Satisfyingly Healthy Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, family, and feasting. While indulging in a delicious, whole-hearted meal is a cherished tradition, it doesn't have to come at the expense of your health. With a few simple swaps, you can create a Thanksgiving spread that's just as satisfying but healthier for you and your loved ones.
Opt for Roast Turkey Instead of Deep-Frying
Turkey, the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner, can be a lean protein and healthy addition to many leftover meals. Consider the method in which your turkey is typically cooked. While deep-frying can be tempting for its crispy skin, it's also high in unhealthy fats and additional calories. Opt for roasting the turkey instead. Roasted turkey can be just as flavorful and juicy without the excess fat. Consider removing the skin to further reduce the calorie and fat content.
Choose Homemade Cranberry Sauce Over Canned
Cranberry sauce is a sweet and tangy complement to your Thanksgiving meal. Instead of reaching for canned cranberry sauce loaded with added sugars and preservatives, make your own at home. It's surprisingly easy and allows you to control the sugar content. A simple recipe can be comprised of fresh cranberries, orange zest, and a touch of natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup.
- 12 ounces (about 3 cups) fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup or honey (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- Rinse off and dry your cranberries.
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
- Over medium heat, add all ingredients into a saucepan.
- Reduce the heat to low.
- Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Ideally, you want your cranberry mixture to thicken.
- Remove from the heat.
- Allow to cool, then serve.
Pick Whole Wheat or Vegetable Stuffing
Traditional stuffing can be heavy on the carbs and low on nutrients. To make a healthier choice, opt for 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread for the base. You can also incorporate more vegetables into your stuffing for added fiber and vitamins and minerals. Try recipes that include mushrooms, onions, celery, and herbs for a flavorful twist.
Choose Mashed Cauliflower Over Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes, the classic side dish, can be loaded with butter and cream. To cut down on carbs and calories while also increasing fiber, consider swapping mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower. When prepared with a bit of olive oil and seasonings, mashed cauliflower is very much like the creamy texture of mashed potatoes with an added nutritional boost.
Choose Green Bean Almondine Over Casserole
Green bean casserole, a classic comfort dish, often contains creamy soups, fried onions, and loads of butter. For a lighter alternative, prepare green beans almondine. Sautéed green beans with toasted almonds and a drizzle of olive oil offer a delicious, nutrient-rich side that is lower in calories and unhealthy saturated fats. See a simple recipe below:
- 1 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Lemon zest (optional, for garnish)
- Blanch the green beans: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until they become bright green and slightly tender. Drain the beans and immediately transfer them to a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Toast the Almonds: In a dry skillet, toast the sliced almonds over medium heat until they become golden brown. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
- Sauté with Olive Oil: In the same skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 1-2 minutes. Add the blanched green beans to the skillet and toss to coat with the garlic-infused olive oil. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the beans are heated through.
- Add Lemon Juice and Season: Drizzle the fresh lemon juice over the green beans and combine. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Choose Fresh Fruit for Dessert Over Pies
Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie are all delicious Thanksgiving traditions that serve as the end of a meal. But they are usually loaded with added sugar, butter, and refined flours. Swap the piece of pie for a healthier dessert option like fruit salad, fruit parfaits, or baked apples with cinnamon and a touch of honey. If you’d like, you can even sprinkle a small bit of crushed graham cracker to the top. These desserts are not only lower in calories but also provide essential vitamins and additional fiber. It’s all about balance!
Gravitate Toward Gravy with Less Fat
Traditional gravy is thickened with flour and made with turkey drippings, which can be high in fat. To create a healthier version, try using whole wheat flour or cornstarch as a thickener. You can also use low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and skim off any excess fat for a lighter and equally tasty gravy.
Don’t Have the Option for Food Swaps?
We get it! Sometimes you don’t have the option to make your own swaps, especially if someone else is hosting Thanksgiving. Here’s our three favorites pieces of advice for those situations.
One of the more simple and effective ways to maintain a healthier Thanksgiving is by practicing portion control. Thanksgiving dinners often lead to overeating due to the abundance of delicious dishes. Use smaller plates and be mindful of your portions. Enjoy a little of everything in moderation, savoring the flavors of each dish.
Thanksgiving isn't just about the food but also about spending time with family and friends. Make the holiday more active by incorporating a pre or post dinner walk. Or if you’re a running family, sign the crew up for a local 5K. Staying active is a great way to keep your health goals top of mind, while still enjoying the extra time spent with family and friends.
Lastly, practice mindful eating. Pay attention to how your body feels and responds to the food you consume. Eat slowly, savor each bite, and listen to your body's hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating can help you enjoy the meal more while preventing overindulgence.