The Nutritionist’s Guide To Thanksgiving

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? The food is awesome, it’s a no pressure holiday (mostly), plus it’s the perfect time for a long weekend. By making recipes that preserve the integrity of each ingredient as well as maximize nutrition content, you’re bound to feel totally satisfied without feeling painfully full, and you’ll set the stage for healthy habits throughout the holiday season. 

Try these easy variations on some traditional Turkey Day recipes: the food will taste better, be better for you, and maybe even help you avoid a hangover! 

Stuffing: Swap bread crumbs for whole grains and veggies

Arguably the best part of the meal, this dish made traditionally can be a bit heavy and a little one-sided in terms of the nutrient class (hello carbs!). We suggest a whole grain and veggie revamp. Add lots of veggies like mushrooms, brussels sprouts, or squash and a whole grain such as bulgur, farro, or quinoa in place of the bread crumbs for a hearty texture, rich flavor and a whole bunch of fiber and protein. Try this:

  • cooked farro
  • sautéed onion
  • porcini and shitake mushrooms
  • celery
  • white wine
  • thyme + sage

Combine ingredients, bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. 

Green Bean Casserole: Swap heavy cream for low fat milk

Green beans are a great source of fiber and antioxidants, and a casserole is an easy way to prepare them for the holiday. The heavy cream (or sodium-heavy cream of mushroom soup) used in many traditional recipes hides the flavor of the veggie, so we recommend using low-fat milk and topping with a mixture of whole-wheat breadcrumbs, shredded cheese such as Gruyere or Swiss, and fresh herbs such as sage, parsley, or thyme. If this doesn’t give you the creamy fix, try making your own cream of mushroom soup for a “healthier” alternative. Ingredients:

  • 2T butter
  • 2T canola oil
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼t salt
  • 2 mushrooms, chopped
  • 10 ounces of milk.

Heat butter and oil and add flour and salt, stirring to make a roux. Add mushroom and cook a minute to soften. Add milk and stir until thickened and enjoy! For lactose intolerant or vegan guests you can also eliminate the cream completely and stick to a broth-based mushroom soup made with 2 pounds of sliced mushrooms and 5 cups of chicken (or veggie) stock.  Add thyme, leeks, onions, carrots and 2T of butter. This is a wonderfully hearty, lighter version of your old favorite. 

Cranberry Sauce: Swap the can for homemade

Cranberry sauce is probably one of our favorite thanksgiving sides (as in, eat it out of the can with a spoon good).  That said, one slice of traditional cranberry jelly contains 22g of sugar (that’s a lot). Go home-made on this one—it’s worth it.  You’ll get twice the flavor, half the sugar and added fiber (bonus!). Cranberries also outrank nearly every fruit and vegetable, including strawberries, spinach, red grapes, broccoli, apples, and cherries in their antioxidant value. Use just three ingredients:

  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • zest and juice of one fresh orange
  • 3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries

You’ll never go back! Place all ingredients into a sauce pan, cook on medium/high heat and stir until thick. Tip: try adding 1T chopped, fresh thyme to enhance the holiday flavor! Amazing.

Mashed Potatoes:  White? Boring! Switch to sweet 

Mashed potatoes are a classic at the thanksgiving meal, but they can be a bit bland and loaded with fat. If you want to add a gorgeous pop of color, a load of flavor and a hefty dose of beta-carotene to your whipped taters, try using sweet potatoes and spice it up with crushed red pepper and garlic or sweeten it with a little bit of maple syrup and cinnamon. Either dish will definitely score at the table!

Pumpkin Pie: Why not try a crumble instead?

Try a different spin on it this year and replace the “pie” with crumble. Combine all the same “inner” ingredients as you would for your pie and place those in a round or square baking dish.  Now combine:

  • 1 ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¾ cup of pecans or almonds, chopped,
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons of canola oil

Combine dry ingredients until mixed well and then top with oil, and mix. The crumble will turn a gorgeous golden brown and reduce the overall calories and fat in the dish as well as provide a much more interesting texture.

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