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Healthy Thanksgiving Meal Alternatives

Healthy Thanksgiving Meal Alternatives

Annie Tucker Morgan | DivineCaroline

November 22, 2010

Mashed Potatoes

Give Thanks: Although russet potatoes, the type typically used in Thanksgiving mashers, get a bad rap for being starchy, they’re actually high in fiber and effective in fighting heart disease and high blood pressure. They’re also rich in vitamins C and B6 and potassium.

No Thanks: As is the case with their sweeter cousins, russet potatoes’ nutritional value takes a backseat to the full-fat dairy products that most Thanksgiving cooks incorporate as they mash. As a result, these tasty tubers often end up resembling whipped butter.

A More Moderate Mash-up: Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take much to make mashed potatoes creamy—a good potato masher works wonders for their texture. To infuse this dish with savory flavor, steep thin slices of raw garlic in water as it boils, then cook your potatoes in it, leaving some of the skin on to retain their dietary fiber. Once you’ve mashed the cooked taters, mix in about one tablespoon of butter per pound of potatoes, plus enough 1 percent milk to thin out the mixture slightly, and season it lightly with salt and pepper.


Give Thanks: Because a turkey can be filled with myriad combinations of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, stuffing is a nutritious concept in theory.

No Thanks: In reality, the store-bought stuffing that most people fall back on is heavy on starch and butter and light on other, more beneficial ingredients. Considering all the mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, and piecrust most Thanksgiving meals include, do you really need to eat more white carbs on this holiday?

Stuffed to the Gills with Goodness: Hold on to your Pilgrim hat—you don’t actually need butter to make stuffing. Instead, sauté a blend of onions, celery, and any other vegetables you choose in a tablespoon or two of olive oil and throw in some fresh herbs, such as sage, marjoram, and thyme. Combine the cooked vegetables with cubes of whole grain bread and enough chicken broth to moisten the mixture, then pack it into your turkey or bake it on its own. Other stuff-worthy foods include dried apricots, low-fat turkey sausage, diced apples, shiitake mushrooms, and figs.


Give Thanks: Pumpkin is low in calories and provides a multitude of benefits, including vitamin A, fiber, and healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids).

No Thanks: For most Americans, Thanksgiving isn’t complete without pumpkin pie. But for natural pumpkin purée to metamorphose into a dessert, it has to join forces with an army of bad influences: eggs, shortening, sugar, and heavy cream (and thus trans fats).

Pie-Eyed for a Lighter Pumpkin: Fortunately, pumpkin pie lends itself to all kinds of healthy ingredient substitutions. Possible swaps include low-fat evaporated milk for cream, brown sugar for white, and egg whites for whole eggs. In addition, a crust made from crushed gingersnap cookies and reduced-calorie margarine is a sweet, satisfying replacement for a butter-laden conventional pastry crust.

Think Before You Thank

Thanksgiving has long been synonymous with American familial traditions, but overeating to the point of physical discomfort now seems to overshadow all the other Turkey Day customs. Moreover, the “traditional” dishes that most people count on seeing on their Thanksgiving table actually have nothing to do with the holiday’s origins. When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags gathered in 1621 for the harvest celebration that started it all, they enjoyed a simple supper of roasted wild fowl and venison—not marshmallows or pumpkin pie. This year, before you find yourself drinking straight from the gravy boat or loosening your belt so you can sit through another helping of potatoes, go against the grain by preparing some lighter fare. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a big holiday meal, but it doesn’t have to be heart-stopping to be hearty.

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Next: Thanksgiving: Cut Costs, Not Flavor >>

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How to Fix Fifteen Common Thanksgiving Problems
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Easy Succulent Thanksgiving Recipe: The Stuffing

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