5 Thanksgiving Swaps for a Healthy Holiday

5 Thanksgiving Swaps for a Healthy Holiday

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds in Black Bowl
By Kimberly Visioni, MS, RD, Contributing Blogger

This year, don’t simply fall back on all of the usual Turkey Day recipes. There are some really great nutrient dense players (a.k.a. fruits and veggies) in our Thanksgiving repertoire. They’re just usually smothered in cheese, drowning in dollops of butter and cream or lost in mounds of sugar and salt. I think this is the perfect setting to let these beauties shine (seriously, the colors will pop on your table). Whether you’re cooking for a house full of guests or bringing a dish for your host, you can put a healthy twist on some of these holiday classics – or at least make them lighter fare.

Candied Yams or Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are not only packed with vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium, but they are, in fact, naturally sweet. So why douse them with sugar, marshmallow and butter? If you think your guests can’t live without a “candied” dish, try this roasted version with honey and cinnamon.

You can also try drizzling canola or olive oil over roasted sweet potatoes and sprinkling  salt and pepper. Go a step further and add savor by mixing them with herbs and spices like cilantro, chili powder, and cumin. Don’t forget, if you keep the skins on, you’ll get extra fiber!

Green Bean Casserole
These casseroles often mask their star ingredient with creamed soup, cheese, butter and too much salt. Green beans are rich in vitamins A, C and K, iron, folate and fiber. Steaming green beans is so much faster than putting together a casserole and all you have to do to make them delicious is toss them with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can get fancier with the addition of lemon juice, chopped herbs, almond slivers or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and fiber but cranberry sauce is usually packed with sugar to offset their tartness. Steer clear of the canned cranberry sauces full of high fructose corn syrup. Instead, try a homemade recipe using fresh cranberries and take control over how much sugar is added to your sauce. You can use more natural sweeteners like pineapple or orange juice and fruits like apples, oranges, or pears with a drizzle of honey.

Pumpkin Pie
How can you beat a dessert that contributes to your daily servings of vegetables and provides you with nutrients like vitamin A, fiber, and potassium? For a lighter pie, you can swap the cream or evaporated whole milk in the filling with evaporated nonfat milk. Try a graham cracker or whole-wheat pastry flour crust instead of using all-purpose flour and top your pie with a dollop of Greek yogurt mixed with pure maple syrup instead of whipped cream. Since almost all of the nutrients are found in the pumpkin filling, you can ditch that heavy crust altogether and try a pumpkin custard to reduce the saturated fat, sugar and total calories.

Bottoms Up
No need to serve sugary sodas during the big feast. It’s easy to offer a pitcher of seltzer water with a display of colorful citrus slices, berries, cucumbers and mint leaves. Then, you can let your guests flavor their sparkling water just the way they like it. You can also have a festive cranberry spritzer ready for your guests as they arrive.

Bottom Line: Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be so restrictive and guilt ridden. With just a few simple swaps you can reduce your total number of calories, especially empty calories and fill up on a variety of nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. Just remember to practice mindful eating, use smaller portions, and enjoy the company!

Kim has a Master’s of Science in Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and just recently passed the registered dietitian exam. She plans to start a private practice as an RD to share her passion for healthy eating and an active lifestyle. You can find her via LinkedIn.

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