As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us eagerly anticipate the joy of gathering with loved ones around a bountiful feast. However, the traditional Thanksgiving spread is often associated with indulgence and overeating. Some of you have heard me talk about the Vegan Thanksgiving I am going to participate in for a second year in a row in Los Angeles with Julia and her boyfriend and his parents. I am not advocating that, but you can definitely bring in some extra plant based items to add to the options you already have on your table.
This year, why not break free from the calorie-laden traditions and embrace a healthier, yet equally delicious, Thanksgiving dinner? There are many creative and nutritious alternatives that will leave your taste buds satisfied without compromising your commitment to health.
Start with a Fresh Spin on Appetizers:
Instead of reaching for heavy appetizers laden with excess calories, consider serving a refreshing and nutritious starter. A colorful and vibrant salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and a light vinaigrette can set the tone for a health-conscious meal. Another option is a vegetable platter with hummus or a yogurt-based dip for a satisfying crunch without the guilt. There are dozens of recipes on websites that you can check out HERE.
Revamp the Turkey:
Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without turkey, but you can make this centerpiece healthier by opting for a leaner cut and preparing it in a more wholesome way. Consider roasting the turkey with a mix of herbs and spices for flavor without excess salt or butter. If you're feeling adventurous, try a herb-infused olive oil rub for a unique and delicious twist. HERE is a recipe, but there are dozens on the internet.
Embrace Nutrient-Rich Side Dishes:
Swap out traditional high-calorie sides for nutrient-rich alternatives. Roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with a touch of cinnamon and olive oil provide a healthy and satisfying alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. Steamed green beans, sautéed Brussels sprouts, or a colorful medley of roasted vegetables can add both flavor and nutrition to your Thanksgiving table. Stay away from the heavy cream and butter, or try your recipe with only half the usual! HERE are some choices.
Whole Grain Goodness:
When it comes to stuffing and grains, opt for whole grains like quinoa or brown rice instead of traditional white bread stuffing. These alternatives not only add a nutty flavor and satisfying texture but also bring additional fiber and nutrients to the table. I discovered Quinoa a few years ago and while it took me a moment, I have come to really enjoy it. Try THIS recipe.
Ditch the canned cranberry sauce loaded with sugar and experiment with a homemade version. A simple cranberry-orange relish with minimal added sugar can provide a burst of flavor without the unnecessary calories. We experimented with fresh cranberries and it was surprisingly easy to do. HERE is a recipe.
Similarly, consider making your own gravy using the drippings from the turkey and incorporating herbs for added taste. I hate to admit that this is where we do use some heavy cream!
Thanksgiving desserts are often synonymous with pies and cakes, but there are healthier options that can still satisfy your sweet tooth. BUT I cannot live without my pies so I am not going to advise against them because I do need to be able to enjoy this part of the meal without interference from my wife and her desire to be healthy.
That said, consider serving a fruit salad with a drizzle of honey or a yogurt parfait with layers of fresh berries and granola. If you can't resist a classic pie, opt for a whole grain crust and fill it with a reduced-sugar filling.
This Thanksgiving, savor the flavors of the season while prioritizing your health. By making thoughtful substitutions and incorporating nutrient-dense ingredients, you can create a delicious feast that leaves you feeling satisfied and grateful for the nourishment you've provided your body. Cheers to a Thanksgiving that's both indulgent and health-conscious!