Thanksgiving meals are often decadent. While heaping mounds of turkey, stuffing, and marshmallow-covered casseroles are considered staples of a Thanksgiving feast, many of these dishes are loaded with unhealthy ingredients. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy, holistic alternatives that leave you feeling full and satisfied — without sacrificing flavor.
Make Healthy Fat Substitutions
Many Thanksgiving recipes call for large quantities of butter or vegetable oils; however, there are a variety of healthier options that can be substituted for these ingredients. Consider replacing butter or vegetable oils with one of the following options: Avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, greek yogurt, or applesauce.
If you’re preparing a soup, sauce, or potato dish that calls for heavy cream, substitute yogurt to achieve that creamy texture.
Between turkey brines and tasty gravy, salt can add up quickly during a Thanksgiving meal leaving you feeling bloated and sluggish. When preparing dishes, start with less salt and work your way up if needed. In many instances, you won’t even miss the extra salt. Or, use some of these flavor-boosting alternatives to give your meal a kick:
- Add lemon juice to brighten the flavors of vegetable dishes
- Opt for low sodium stocks and broths to add flavor without added salt
- Buy fresh, and avoid processed foods, where possible as they tend to be high in salt and unhealthy fats
Be Mindful of Your Sugar Intake
Sweets are aplenty during Thanksgiving but we’re not telling you skip the pie. However, there are a few tricks to enjoy your sweet treats without feeling like you completely over-indulged.
- Consider low-sugar dessert options such as baked apples or grilled peaches
- Opt for a savory sweet potato side, roasted with herbs and spices, for a new twist on an old favorite.
- Use added fruit in cranberry salad to sweeten vs. extra sugar.
- Add fresh fruits and naturally sweet vegetables, such as beets, to salads for an unexpected sweet touch.
For that must-have Thanksgiving stuffing, consider using whole-grain breads, quinoa, or barley for added heart-healthy fiber. Whole wheat flour can also be substituted in most baked goods for some extra healthy benefits.
Make Veggies the Star of the Show
Don’t skip out on your favorites like mashed potatoes and stuffing but make sure there are plenty of tasty vegetable sides, too. Good options to serve include:
- Steamed or sautéed green beans or carrots
- Roasted brussels sprouts
- Roasted or mashed cauliflower
- Grilled asparagus
- Spinach or other dark, leafy green salads
Part of eating a healthy meal involves being mindful of portion sizes. Serving dinner on smaller plates is an easy trick to help with portion control so you don’t over eat. Turning off distractions and engaging in conversation can also make you eat slower and allow your stomach to signal when its full. Space courses of the meal out by serving dessert later in the evening to avoid feeling as stuffed as that tasty turkey.
Like any day of the week, Thanksgiving is no exception when it comes to hydration. To feel great well into the evening, make sure you and your guests are drinking plenty of water throughout the meal. Fun alternatives to the basic glass of water include seltzer, unsweetened iced teas, and fruit-infused waters.
Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks with family and friends and should not be consumed by food limitations and restrictions. This is especially important when teaching children about healthy food choices around the holidays. Though moderation is key, letting your kids explore new foods, help in preparation, and even over-indulge from time-to-time can be great learning opportunities as they establish their own, healthy relationships with food.
At Partners in Pediatrics, we are committed to helping our Denver family live healthier lives by sharing integrative and functional wellness topics. If you’re interested in more comprehensive advice for healthy eating, please contact us and speak directly with our team serving patients in Denver, Littleton, Cherry Creek, and the surrounding areas of Colorado.