Thanksgiving is traditionally a time where loved ones gather together and enjoy heaping plates of food. Many of the dishes on the menu may be laden with calories and cooked in ways that aren’t very healthy. However, it’s easy to make changes so this year’s meal is healthier, but still delicious. Below are some effective and quick ideas for holiday meal preparations.
1. Swap White Flour with Whole Wheat Flour
If your Thanksgiving meal will include breads or other choices that have flour as a main ingredient, use whole wheat flour instead of the white flour. Whole wheat flour helps digestion and, over time, can also cut a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes. For every cup of white flour required by a recipe, substitute 7/8 cup of the whole wheat version.
2. Use Marshmallow Fluff Instead of Frosting
Planning to bake some Thanksgiving-themed cookies for the dessert table? Before you pile frosting on the freshly-baked goods, think about using marshmallow fluff instead. Unlike frosting, it’s fat free, which might make you feel less guilty about digging into the turkey eagerly before it’s time for dessert.
3. Try Mashed Banana in Recipes That Call for Fats
When you come across a Thanksgiving recipe that needs butter or oil, consider using mashed banana instead of those fatty ingredients. The banana adds potassium and vitamin B6. Switch out one cup of butter or oil with the same amount of mashed banana.
4. Go With Graham Cracker Pie Crusts
If you’re making a pie that has a crust partially made from Oreo cookies or sugar cookies, try substituting the cookies with reduced-fat graham crackers instead. They offer the same consistency, but fewer calories. Plus, the distinctive flavor of graham crackers should pair well with Thanksgiving favorites like pumpkin and pecan pies.
5. Use Evaporated Skim Milk Instead of Cream
In a recipe that requires cream, use the same quantity of evaporated skim milk instead. Although the milk adds a couple grams of sugar, you’ll be consuming a fraction of the fat. That usually makes it a more than worthy trade-off.
6. Use Flax Meal Instead of Eggs
This trick is good to rely on if anyone who’ll be at the Thanksgiving dinner is a vegan. Mix a tablespoon of flax meal with three tablespoons of warm water and combine with a whisk. Let the blend sit in the refrigerator for five to 10 minutes, and then you’ll be ready to use it in place of an egg for a recipe.
7. Choose Brown Instead of White Rice
If you’ll be serving rice as a side dish for your turkey with all the trimmings, opt for brown rice rather than the white variety. When white rice gets processed, some things like fiber get stripped away. Brown rice is a healthier pick.
8. Try Turnip Mash
Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, but they’re filled with calories even before extras like salt and butter get added. Consider turnip mash with fresh herbs and enjoy a side dish with fewer calories. Turnip mash only has about 50 calories per serving, but mashed potatoes have nearly 200.
9. Be Careful When Choosing Cookware
Having a healthy Thanksgiving dinner this year also means being conscious of what you cook your food in. Some containers can leach chemicals and traces of metal from their cooking surfaces. Be smart and choose lead-free options that aren’t made with chemicals, such as ceramic dishes.
10. Substitute Rolled Oats for Breadcrumbs
When making stuffing or another Thanksgiving favorite that uses breadcrumbs, switch them out for rolled oats that are seasoned with herbs. Not only does that reduce the sodium content, but it adds a whole grain to the finished dish.
11. Use Nuts as a Salad Topping
If you’re planning to start the Thanksgiving feast with a salad, top the greens with slivers of pecans or walnuts rather than croutons. They’ll give an extra crunch but have fewer carbohydrates than many types of croutons. The nutty taste might also encourage people to use salad dressing more sparingly than usual, which also reduces the overall fat content.
12. Practice Portion Control
Although Thanksgiving is often characterized by plates that are piled high with food, be thoughtful and take comparatively small portions of items like desserts or casseroles. Then, feel free to fill up with larger portions of healthier fare like veggies and lean meats. Also, be mindful that you'll probably be eating leftovers throughout the upcoming days; remember there’s no need to go overboard during the Thanksgiving meal.
13. Pick White Meat
Everyone has taste preferences for dark or white meat turkey. If you’re serious about making your holiday meal as healthy as it can be, opt for white meat. It’s a good source of lean protein but doesn’t have as much fat as dark meat and skin.
14. Stock Up on Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a seasonal favorite in the fall and a good source of fiber, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C. Try cutting them in half, sprinkling the inside with a mixture of brown sugar and orange juice, then baking them in the oven.
15. Offer Seltzer Water with Fruit Slices as a Beverage
Soda, wine and juice are popular beverages for a holiday meal, but there’s a healthier option that’s still tasty. Set out a jug of seltzer water, plus a tray of orange, lemon and lime slices. The fruit slices add a kick of flavor, while the carbonation of the water treats the taste buds to an interesting sensation.
16. Don’t Use Canned Cranberries
Although canned cranberries are convenient, they usually don’t have the great antioxidant content fresh cranberries do. Plus, the canned versions are likely loaded with sugar and preservatives. Instead, use fresh cranberries and flavor them with balsamic vinegar or apple juice from concentrate.
By getting inspiration from this list, you should see it’s easier than you might think to make Thanksgiving healthier this year. If all goes well, maybe your efforts will turn into an annual tradition that inspires friends and relatives to follow your lead.
Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living, sustainable consumption, eco-friendly practices and green energy. In the past, her work has also been featured on GRIT, Mother Earth Living, Blue And Green Tomorrow, Dwell and Houzz. To read more from Kayla, follow her productivity and lifestyle blog, Productivity Theory, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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