With all of the health craze going on, I thought it would only be right to do a post on Thanksgiving recipes and how we can make them healthier. As we all know, Thanksgiving is almost synonymous with gluttony and overeating. I don’t think that we mean to do it, I think that we just wait for this yummy food to come around once a year and once it does, there is no way to stop us. I am guilty of it and I know you are too 🙂
But fear not, I have done some research and discovered that there is a way to keep Thanksgiving as healthy as possible! It just requires minor tweaks and substitutions, but your Thanksgiving feast will be just as delicious if not more, than the traditional butter filled dinner.
I will address the sides first. Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, candied yams and stuffing?! Well, believe it or not there is a way to keep the calories down, while still keeping up the taste and deliciousness. Let me start with mashed potatoes! Instead of putting out a butter loaded puree, why not serve some rosemary and garlic roasted baby potatoes? Still potatoes and in my opinion even more delicious than the mash, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside! If you want to get really fancy, you can add some baby carrots and brussel sprouts to the mix and let it all roast together for a yummy, savory dish! Click on the picture for my own recipe of roasted potatoes on Tanjinny.com, or check out Giada De Laurentiis’ version on Foodnetwork.com. If you want to go super duper healthy, you can make mashed cauliflower with roasted garlic, but that is definitely kicking it up a notch in the “healthy” department. It is totally delicious, I have made it before. Totally up to you tho!
Swap out your trusty green bean casserole for a garlic and olive oil sauteed green beans or roasted brussel sprouts, or BOTH! There is nothing easier than these recipes and they taste delicious. Personally, I serve these throughout the entire year. They are a great side to any dinner entree and most importantly you are getting your veggies in!
Can’t live without a cheesy dish on Thanksgiving? Well neither can I. But this year, instead of loading up on everyone’s favorite Mac and Cheese, I will be removing the “Mac” and substituting it with cauliflower. Yes, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese – it is actually a real thing! Personally, I like cauliflower, so as long as there is a cheesy crust on top of it and in between, I’m good :). If you already have a trusty “Mac and Cheese” recipe, then go ahead and proceed as you usually do, just sub your mac with some cauliflower. Boil the cauliflower until it is tender, and then let it cook to completion as it is baking with the cheese. Now this is a side dish that you won’t feel guilty refilling on.
In place of candied yams, try either the roasted sweet potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes. Sure, these won’t be loaded with butter and sugar, but thankfully sweet potatoes are good enough on their own that they are delicious in any variation. I like both of these recipes and I utilize them throughout the year as well.
Stuffing – everyone’s favorite! Here is my personal recipe that also doubles up as lunch on those lazy winter days. Prepare quinoa as directed, sautee diced mushrooms, celery and carrots. If you want your stuffing to be savory, I would recommend adding cooked turkey sausage to the mix. Combine everything together with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and add about ½ a cup of parmesan cheese. Bake mixture at 375F until you see a crust forming. If you want a healthier version, below is a recipe from Tasty Yummies that is definitely lighter than my own version above. If are not a fan of quinoa, try cous-cous instead. It is not as healthy, but definitely better than the usual stuffing mix.
Cranberry sauce is a minor detail, but a very very important one! I can’t have my turkey without the sauce. So, how do we make this one healthy? Well, sure you can make your own. It is pretty easy! Here is a recipe for you from Whole Foods, however if you want to buy one, luckily there are other options aside from the traditional canned sauces. There is a jared cranberry sauce from Trader Joe’s or cranberry relish from Williams and Sonoma.
What about gravy, you ask. Well actually there are ways to make it lighter and healthier believe it or not. Fitday.com provides a few alternatives, but the one that stuck out to me was revising the original. Instead of using turkey drippings use stock or broth, still using the same flour as thickener, substitute olive oil for butter. Same premise, but definitely a much healthier gravy in the end. Or if you are feeling super adventurous, try the mushroom gravy from DailyBurn.com. Looks good to me!
As for the “bird”, not much can be done except for NOT dousing it in pounds of butter. I recommend covering your turkey in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, sage and rosemary. Cut off all of the extra fat and stuff it with diced apples and pears. The fruit will infuse the meat from the inside, keeping it moist and juicy. When you finish cooking the turkey, take out your apples and pears as they have done their job by that time. Your bird will be juicy, tender and finger licking good, minus loads of butter.
We are nearing the end and there can’t be a Thanksgiving without some yummy desserts! Well if you thought that I wouldn’t figure this out one, then you were wrong. Apparently there are plenty of options for a healthy sweet ending to your meal, and no it doesn’t have to be fresh fruit or sorbet. I have come across this one last year at our company’s Thanksgiving lunch. Since we have a number of people on our team who are vegans, we had a berry crisp delivered in order to accommodate their dietary needs. Well, since I was never a fan of the pumpkin or sweet potato pie, I was all over that crisp and it was absolutely delicious! Here I have two finger licking recipies for you, one of an Apple Cranberry Crisp and one of a Raspberry Rhubarb Crisp. Both are tasty, but personally I would go for the raspberry 😉
If above was not enough food, I have three dishes that can be served as starters. First on the list, is my own famous butternut squash soup! I make it during fall on a regular basis, but it would make a perfect start to your Thanksgiving dinner as well.
A great fall salad sets the mood right for a big meal to come. Squash and pomegranates are total fall indicators. Combine these together for a rustic salad to start your festivities. Try this delicious recipe from Cookie and Kate HQ of arugala, squash, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. You can remove the cheese should you want a lighter version.
Last, but never the least is the Sausage and Kale stuffed Acorn. Easy, delicious and definitely on the lighter side. Your guests will surely be impressed.
So with that said, I hope you will try some of these recipes out this Thanksgiving, I know I will!
Let me know what your favorite healthy Thanksgiving recipes are. I am always looking for new ways to spice up the Holiday every year.