Thanksgiving dinner is a delicious feast, but if you’re trying to eat healthy and cut back on calories, it can be a tempting test of will, and giving in to it can feel like a massive failure. So why not prepare a delicious, healthy Thanksgiving dinner this year? With some substitutions and some delicious recipes, you can make your Thanksgiving meal a healthier one without skimping on the taste.
STARTING OFF WITH A SALAD
A good thing to do is start the meal off with a healthy salad. That way, you can begin with something high in fiber and low in calories to help prevent you from overeating when it comes to the higher calorie foods that come later on. When making a salad, always skip the iceberg lettuce in favor of spinach, romaine lettuce, and other greens that have more nutritional value and will be more filling. Then add some fresh vegetables and add flavor in the way of spices, onions, fruit, capers, smoked salmon, etc. If you make the salad nice and flavorful, you will be less tempted to overuse dressing or add lots of cheese. And skip the croutons–they’re unnecessary. Also, be careful with store bought dressings–try to avoid those with lots of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup.
You can find a great, healthy salad recipe here: rainbow chopped salad
here: smoked trout with herb horseradish dressing salad
and here: lemony carrot salad
Make sure you bring the salad out first and by itself, so that you and your guests aren’t tempted to avoid the salad in favor of the other foods!
TURKEY AND STUFFING:
Once you’ve eaten a healthy first course, you can bring out the turkey and sides. While a lot of Thanksgiving sides need to be made more healthy, turkey is pretty much a Thanksgiving staple, and really, not too unhealthy for you depending on how it’s done. Here’s a great recipe for an herb roasted turkey: herbed roasted turkey
While turkey is not bad for you, a lot of stuffing can be pretty unhealthy, filled with fat and empty calories. Why not try making a different, healthier stuffing this year? If you are a stuffing purist, here is a basic recipe for a standard (but healthy) stuffing: stuffing with cranberries
If you want to try something a little different and fancier, try this fun stuffing recipe: pear, prosciutto, and hazlenut stuffing
MASHED POTATOES AND GRAVY:
Next, let’s move on to mashed potatoes and gravy, some of the most delicious, but also fattiest, Thanksgiving staples.
There are a couple ways to make mashed potatoes healthier this Thanksgiving. All the butter (and milk) that goes into mashed potatoes is not great for their fat or caloric content, so why not cut back on both of those things? Using vegetable or chicken broth is a great way to flavor mashed potatoes and help them get their smooth texture. Or try using low fat Greek yogurt instead of butter. Greek yogurt is really healthy, especially with the added probiotics that are great for your digestive system, and even the low fat kind is quite flavorful. Adding sauteed garlic and onions, or some herbs and spices is a great way to add flavor to your mashed potatoes, especially if you are making them with broth instead of dairy products.
And check out this great recipe for a potato and broccoli mix, low in fat but rich in nutrients: broccoli potato puree
Of course, potatoes are not known for being the healthiest option, so if you are not feeling the need to have typical mashed potatoes, why not make a much healthier version of them using cauliflower? You may have heard that white foods are not as healthy for you as those rich in color, but this is simply not true when it comes to cauliflower. Cauliflower is low in calories and carbs, but high in vitamin C and other nutrients, and filling as well. Here is a good recipe for mashed cauliflower: creamy mashed cauliflower
Or you can simply use your favorite mashed potato recipe and substitute the cauliflower for the potatoes (cooking the cauliflower differently than you would the potatoes, of course).
And of course, what good are mashed potatoes (or cauliflower) and turkey without gravy? And while using the turkey drippings to make gravy may result in deliciousness, it is definitely not a healthy, low-fat way to go. So this year, skip the turkey dressing and try making a broth-based or vegetarian dressing instead. Here is a simple and low fat gravy recipe to try: low fat gravy recipe
Here is a great vegetarian gravy recipe: savory vegetable gravy
If you are in the mood to try something different and fun this year, try one of these gravy recipes: vegetarian cashew gravy or vegetarian miso gravy
Some classic Thanksgiving sides just need to be skipped or changed out this year to make your meal a healthier one. For a start, skip the corn–it’s pretty devoid of nutrients at this point (before corn was grown in the large quantities it is now it was quite nutrient rich but most nutrients have been bred out of it in favor of crop yield), and most people slather it in butter and salt. Also, change out rolls for healthy wheat bread. If you buy it at the store, make sure it’s not too sugary and try to avoid any with high fructose corn syrup. If you can, buy freshly baked wheat bread at a local bakery. Or skip the bread altogether. Try cooking up sides filled with fresh vegetables, like squash, asparagus, carrots, kale, etc. Avoid overly processed, super cheesy, and really salty sides in favor of one or more of these healthy and delicious sides:
roasted winter squash and apple soup, baked sweet potato fries, quinoa stuffed peppers, cranberry cherry walnut marmalade, green beans with prosciutto and pine nuts
Finally, we’re onto dessert. You don’t have to skip dessert this year to make your meal healthier, just make a few changes for a healthier dessert. Focusing on fruit-heavy desserts is a good way to go. Making a simple dessert yourself is bound to be healthier than serving a store bought dessert, which are notoriously high in fat, empty calories, and sugar.
And of course, there is always pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is actually quite good for you, so try this recipe for a healthier pumpkin pie: healthy pumpkin pie recipe
Sweet potatoes are also super foods when it comes to nutritional benefits, but those overall rich sweet potato pies with marshmallow toppings need to be changed out for something a bit healthier, like this: healthy sweet potato dessert recipe
And here are some other great healthy dessert recipes you can try: poached pears, cheeries with ricotta cheese and toasted almonds, rustic apple cranberry tart
So be healthy this Thanksgiving. With some good substitutions and great recipes, you can even make your Thanksgiving meal more delicious than ever before while keeping yourself, your family, and your friends healthy.