Tips to Make Thanksgiving Meals Healthier

Homemade Roasted Thanksgiving Day Turkey with all the Sides
Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends, but it can also be a time for overindulging and overeating. With the help of our Thanksgiving cheat sheet, we're going to show you how to navigate those temptations and make the holiday meal healthier for everyone!

What can be enjoyed in moderation at a holiday meal?

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, moderation is key. You can enjoy a little bit of everything and still be healthy: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and pumpkin pie. But it would be best if you didn’t eat the whole thing.

Here are some suggestions for making the most of your Thanksgiving meal while staying healthy.

For turkey, we suggest: 

  • 3.5 ounces equals one serving (the size of a deck of cards). 
  • The breast is the leanest cut (versus the wing or thigh).
  • The nutritional difference between dark and white meat is negligible. 

For improving traditional sides, we suggest the following:

  • Cream and butter can be abundant in mashed potatoes. To reduce the calories and fat in this recipe, replace the whole milk with low-fat milk (skim or 1%). 
  • Fruits, nuts, and vegetables can be added to stuffing (even store-bought mixes) to make it healthy. Apples, celery, pumpkin seeds, and cranberries are some of the most popular additions.
  • Butternut squash comes in various shapes and sizes, is low in calories (approximately 60 calories per cup when cubed), and is high in vitamin A. 
  • Don’t be put off by eating cranberry sauce. As a condiment, it’s heavy in sugar. Just keep an eye on the portion sizes. 

When it comes to dessert, we recommend: 

  • Pumpkin puree, which gets used in pies and other desserts, is high in vitamin A. 
  • Instead of pies, try making apple or pumpkin crisp.

If you are responsible for the cooking this holiday, here are some recipe suggestions: 

  • Replace 1/3 of the potatoes in mashed potatoes with cooked and mashed cauliflower. You won’t be able to tell the difference if done correctly. Also, try using avocado mayonnaise or almond milk for the butter, or at least a portion of the butter. 
  • Use fresh cranberries and simmer them with lemon juice, ginger, vanilla, a little honey, or coconut sugar to make cranberry sauce. Another option is to use monk fruit sugar, which is calorie-free, 300 times sweeter than sugar, and high in vitamin C.
    Substitute coconut sugar or monk fruit sugar for ordinary sugar in pies. 
  • Use 1/2 less cornbread in the filling and more fresh vegetables. Use turkey stock that is minimal in fat. If you’re making your own, chill the stock after it’s finished and skim off any solidified fat. Add some avocado mayonnaise for extra smoothness. 
  • To improve the nutritional content of dinner rolls, try replacing 1/3 of the wheat with ancient grain flour such as einkorn, spelt, sorghum, oats, or bulgur wheat flour.

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