Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and that typically means a smorgasbord spread of rich, decadent foods that would never make it on most healthy eating plans...except maybe the ones in your dreams. You could take the approach that the fourth Thursday of every November is an eat freely day, where you get to dig in and pig out with the best of them. However, if you’ve been working really hard at burning fat and reaching your body goals, maybe this is the year you take a break from the gluttony and go for a more prudent approach.
One way to do so is to keep your portions in check. You can still enjoy what’s being served, just do so in amounts that don’t require wearing elastic-waist pants to dinner. Take it one step further and ask for a smaller plate (the ones from which everyone else will be eating pumpkin pie later), and fill it up once without going back for seconds (or third or fourths).
Another option is to eat the healthier items on the table. This is easier to do if you’re making the meal and thus can create good options to serve alongside those butter-laden comfort foods. However, if you’re not in charge of the meal, your plate could look pretty bare with just white meat turkey, salad, and a veggie side…if those are even “clean.”
As someone who has to eat gluten free for medical reasons, I know firsthand what it’s like to sit down to a family meal only to see very few option that I can actually eat. I quickly learned that in these situations, instead of burdening the host with making specific dishes for me or worrying about if what that person is going to serve will make me sick, I now bring a dish or two that I know I can eat. The same approach can easily be applied to eating healthy. With the following turkey day side dishes, you can add great flavors to your family feast without blowing your results or goals.
Slim Down the Salad: On a normal day, a salad would include lettuce, fresh veggies and maybe some chopped protein. But on the holidays, salads seem to become something completely different. Vegetables are replaced with fruit, caramel gets drizzled on top, and the word “fluff” becomes an actual ingredient. Make and bring the “normal day” salad, but dress it up a bit for the fall holiday with chopped pecans, chicken, honeycrisp apples, and crumbled goat cheese.
Make A New Mash: If Thanksgiving just wouldn’t feel right without mashed potatoes, swap out the russets for a cauliflower dish with great taste appeal but is better for your body. To make, cook cauliflower in a boiling pot of water until fork tender (about 10 minutes). Pulse the cauliflower along with 2 tablespoons of butter, minced garlic, chopped rosemary, and low fat cream cheese. You’ll have a dish that looks and tastes decadent without having to deal with the guilt.
Quit the Casserole: If you usually eat green bean casserole on turkey day, ditch the cream of soup and extra ingredients and heat up fresh beans on the stove top. This is a dish that is best served right away, so skip it if the cook won’t allow you in her kitchen. But if she’s game, spray a skillet with olive oil cooking spray, and over medium-high heat add in the cleaned, fresh green beans. Squeeze a quarter lemon wedge over the top and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper. For a fancier version, add a drop or two of sesame oil and top with slivered almonds.
Boast the Roast: For a make-ahead veggie that you can simply reheat and serve, go the route of roasting. You can keep it simple and just roast a single kind of vegetable, such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Or you can chop and mix a variety of veggies for a presentation that pops. Simply toss in olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and roast at 375 degrees until tender. For more flavor, add your favorite fresh herbs to the mix before cooking.
Desweeten the Sauce: Cranberry sauce can be packed with lots of hidden sugars whether it comes from a can or is cooked with love (and brown sugar). Skip the added sugar and use honey and orange zest when making a homemade version of this zingy favorite.
Take the Stuffed Out of Stuffing: Bread and butter make stuffing the comfort food you love to crave. However, when looking for a substitute, try a vegetable-packed version made with wild rice or quinoa. Wild rice is high in fiber, while quinoa is high in protein. Both will help to fill you up without weighing you down.