Thanksgiving is a favorite of mine for a number of reasons. I love the crisp fall air, the gorgeous landscapes as the leaves change from vibrant green to hues of orange and yellow, and spending a whole day in the kitchen preparing a huge dinner for my family. People look forward to Thanksgiving all year long, and common Thanksgiving traditions include eating a gigantic turkey dinner with all the trimmings, sitting around drinking wine or mulled cider, and watching football on TV all day.
These customs may be common, and sure they’re all pretty fun, but they really aren’t all that healthy! This year, with just a few simple changes, you can take your turkey day traditions from sedentary to superbly healthy. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Step Away From the Stuffing
Stuffing (or dressing – if that’s what you and your family call it) is often a heavy bread-laden dish that sends you straight into a carb coma. Step away from the stuffing that you are used to and try something new! Quinoa and wild rice make good alternative bases for flavorful stuffing. If you MUST have your bready stuffing (and my family MUST), load it with lots of veggies and fruit and nuts. I use half the amount of bread in my recipe and double my carrots, celery, and onions.
Lighten Up Your Sweet Potato Casserole
A dish so sweet it could be considered dessert, sweet potato casserole is a classic family favorite. The classic recipe is over 400 calories per serving though, so baking a lighter version is key to your healthy turkey day meal. The casserole is still sweet and delicious with hints of bright orange zest and honey — the stick of butter won’t be missed!
Lean Green Beans
Green bean casserole is a favorite for many at their of Thanksgiving dinner. Condensed soup, cream and butter make the veggies in this dish unrecognizable underneath all of that goop.
This year take those green beans out of the soup and sauté them instead. Cooked in olive oil and garlic and dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon, your green beans with be refreshing and flavorful.
Low-Fat Mashed Potatoes
Traditional mashed potatoes recipes call for lots of cream and butter. You don’t need all that fat to get a rich and creamy side dish. Use light sour cream and fat-free milk to give these healthy mashed potatoes all of the creaminess you desire with only one gram of fat!
Sugarless Cranberry Sauce
As a reminder, sweeties, sugar-less does not mean sugar-free — it simply means no sugar is added to this recipe. The sweetness comes from all natural sources such as pineapple juice, applesauce and honey.
The recipe is a healthier alterative to those recipes that offset the sour bite of cranberries with cups of white sugar and is WAY better than the jiggly cranberry sauce of yesteryear you’ll find in cans at your local grocery store!
Skinny Pumpkin Pie
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without dessert! For me, that means pumpkin pie! You can have your pie and eat it too with this skinny pumpkin pie recipe. Rolling the dough out extra thin is the secret to making this pie lighter, and it’s brilliant! You could also very easily apply this method of skinny-fying your pie to apple or pecan if those are your preference, too.
Thanksgiving Day fun runs, also known as Turkey Trots, are growing in popularity. These events are fun for the whole family options ranging from short kid-friendly courses to five-kilometer courses to longer 10-kilometer courses for avid runners. Scheduled in the morning hours before the family sits down to a meal, a fun run is a good way to exercise before the carb coma sets in.
Or perhaps, instead of sitting down to watch football on TV after dinner, get the family out for a lively game of touch football. This practice is already a tradition for some families, so why not make it one of your traditions? If you don’t like football – try your hand at anything outside or even go for a leisurely family stroll after dinner.
This year, it’s time we all make Thanksgiving a celebration not just about food but also about wellness. These new traditions will give your family many happy, healthy meals to come. So gather everyone around the table and give thanks for healthy food and family. Cheers!