Healthy Thanksgiving Food: Low Calorie and Delicious
The big turkey day is nearly here and many cooks are already planning their menus for Thanksgiving. Across the country, people will eat dinner with family and friends in homes and restaurants. Many of my clients feel it is difficult to focus on health and wellness at this time of the year. For Thanksgiving gatherings, I tell my clients it is “just one day” of dining. This holiday meal should be viewed as a meal enjoyed with those that matter in your life, a time to be thankful, and a time to reflect. And, with a little planning, most traditional Thanksgiving menu choices can end up being truly healthy Thanksgiving food! Let’s take a look at some typical foods and decide how to make them healthy, lower calorie, and still delicious Thanksgiving menu options.
Healthy Thanksgiving food to serve
Low calorie Thanksgiving pumpkin pie
Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene which is the plant derived form of vitamin A. That beta-carotene is loaded with cancer fighting anti-oxidants. Beta-carotene helps protect our vision, our skin, immunity, and is necessary for reproduction. In children, it plays a critical role in bone development.
With traditional pumpkin pie, the vast majority of the calories are from the crust. Consider offering your guests a slimmed down crust free pumpkin pie option. You can still offer the traditional version in addition to the no crust pie. The no crust pie tastes exactly like the version with a crust except except it has a slightly different texture. The crust-free version has 1/2 cup of Bisquick added to the filling to give it some stability upon slicing since there is no crust. Here’s the slimmed pumpkin pie recipe to try. And, top with aerosol whipped cream to limit calories. That aerosol whipped cream is full of air! Air does not yield any calories.
If you want a second dessert option, try my ice cream roll cake. You can tweak this recipe so many ways. Make it lactose free, gluten free, chocolate, or vanilla. It’s perfect for entertaining because you can prepare it way in advance. It’s only about 200 calories a slice. What’s not to love about stress free entertaining?
This is another beta-carotene superstar. Keep the calories in tow by limiting the brown sugar, butter, nuts, and marshmallows used in traditional recipes. You can try slimming down your own traditional recipe by cutting the high calorie ingredients (sugar, butter, nuts, marshmallows) in half or try a new recipe! Here’s a slimmed down sweet potato recipe that looks like it’s worth a try!
Potatoes sure get a bad and undeserved wrap. It seems everyone is afraid to eat them these days. You know, too many carbs! The problem with that thinking is that potatoes are loaded with potassium! In fact, white potatoes are much higher in potassium than bananas (see how potatoes rank in potassium). Potassium is critical to a healthy diet and most people are not meeting their potassium requirements. There should be no guilt in eating mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving or at any meal for that matter. It’s simple to make healthier lower calorie mashed potatoes by just tweaking your standard recipes. Try cutting your added butter in half. Consider using skim milk, low sodium chicken broth, or fat-free sour cream in your recipe to slash the fat and calories. These recipe alterations will have an amazing impact on the calorie content per serving of your mashed potatoes.
Cranberries are healthy Thanksgiving food
Cranberries are loaded with cancer fighting plant chemicals, vitamin C, and fiber. No need to limit its use to just cranberry bread and sauce which are both high in sugar. Consider using it in a fruit compote instead. Here’s an interesting recipe that foots the bill for a cranberry compote which is low in calories. It gets its reduced calorie content due to the monk fruit used as the sweetener.
Turkey is healthy Thanksgiving food
Turkey is full of lean good quality protein. A 4 oz. serving of lean turkey has 200 calories, 36 grams of protein, and only 2 grams of fat. Watch your gravy portions or opt for a low fat or fat-free gravy. Just a word on that stuffing, be sure to roast your turkey separately from the stuffing. Baking stuffing in a separate casserole dish will make it less fatty since the fatty turkey juices will not be in contact with it.
Post Thanksgiving meal strategies
For Thanksgiving foods that are not low calorie, consider boxing them up for guests to take home. You might want to have inexpensive containers ready and waiting for those leftovers. Then you can pack them up immediately and get them refrigerated if need be. Send guests home with any personally high temptation foods if you are trying to manage your weight. Otherwise, you’ll need to rely on willpower to stop yourself from overindulging, and that usually fails!
You should eat your turkey leftovers within five days. Sometimes those leftovers just end up sitting in the refrigerator too long, so consider freezing the meat immediately if you think you’ve had enough turkey for awhile. Or, consider using the leftover turkey scraps to make a family favorite turkey croquette. You can just prep the turkey scraps in a food processor, bag them up, and pull the turkey out when ready to make the croquettes.
Enjoy the day and the health benefits of a traditional Turkey day menu lightened up. There is always a way to lighten the calories of any traditional recipe. Top your meal with a nice family walk, and you will be slim and ready for the next round of holidays in December!
Do you think any of my suggestions would work for your Thanksgiving menu planning? Do you have any other suggestions to add to this blog? Please share this post if you found it helpful.
Use this information at your own risk. Although I am a licensed IL dietitian/nutritionist, I am not your dietitian. The information in my blog Chew on This located at www.mydietmatters.com is for educational and informational purposes only. It is also my own opinion and subject to change in the future. Please consult with your own medical professionals for individual treatment.