Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thanksgiving Lite by Carol Ross and Amy Vastine


It's getting close to that time of year when Carol and I tend to overindulge a bit thanks to all the delicious holiday goodies that come out of the kitchen. In years past, I haven't worried about it at all ... and my waistline suffered for it. This year, I am 80 pounds lighter and have no desire to bulk back up even though temptation lurks in every corner! In my journey to be a healthier me, I have learned a lot about finding healthy alternatives - simple things like swapping ground turkey for ground beef or using greek yogurt instead of oil when I bake. It got me thinking, what can I do to lighten up Thanksgiving, the day so many Americans fill their plates and loosen their belts? Carol and I pulled out our recipe books and scoured Pinterest for some ideas. Here are some tasty alternatives to some Thanksgiving favorites that won't make you afraid to step on the scale on Black Friday.

Mashed Potatoes
Photo from lifesambrosia.com


Carol suggestion: In this current carb-cutting craze that’s sweeping the nation, I think potatoes are getting a bad rap. The problem is that we tend to fry them or load them up with butter and sour cream. A plain medium-sized potato is fiber-rich and fat-free, only has about 110 calories, and contains more potassium than a banana. Pro-potato campaign aside, what would Thanksgiving dinner be without a pile of them all mashed up? Here’s healthier option for this normally whip cream and butter laden dish: Leave the skin on the potatoes, scrub and cut in small chunks. Boil in chicken broth with a few cloves of garlic. When they’re done, drain the spuds but leave some of the broth. Slice larger pieces with a knife to break up the skin and then mash. Add lite cream cheese and buttermilk to your desired consistency. Season to taste.

Amy's suggestion: I agree that potatoes aren't so bad on their own, but I prefer to save my carbs for the rolls my mom makes on Thanksgiving (I'm not giving those up, sorrynotsorry). Instead of mashed potatoes, how about mashed cauliflower? This veggie is so versatile. I often use riced cauliflower instead of rice when I make stir fry. Saves me tons of calories and tastes great.  Mashing some up with light cream cheese, a little milk, salt and pepper gives you a tasty and much lower calorie alternative to those creamy mashed taters we all love. They're so light, you won't have to skip the gravy!

Green Bean Casserole
Photo from thecozyapron.com


Amy's suggestion: Oh my, who doesn't love veggies covered in thick cream soup and topped with crunchy onion straws? Green bean casserole made eating my vegetables much less horrible as a kid, but it's definitely not the healthy way to get our greens. My substitution is simple, there are so many lighter versions of everything out there. Instead of the fat-full cream of mushroom soup, add something like Campbell's Healthy Request cream soup and some skim milk. Make your own onion crisps by tossing some onion in flour, salt, and pepper and bake them until they're crunchy. With these small changes, you can save half the calories and fat!

Carol's suggestion: One of my go-to strategies for holiday meals, potlucks, and buffets is always to fill up on vegetables and then eat less of the good (bad) stuff. As an alternative to creamy vegetable dishes like green bean casserole and loaded broccoli bake, toss your favorite veggies in olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper and roast in the oven at 425° for 10 to 15 minutes. I like a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini and red bell peppers. By the time I eat my fill of these, I eat waaay less of the unhealthier stuff.

Pumpkin Pie
Photo from pillsbury.com
Carol's suggestion: Pumpkin pie is hands-down one of my favorite desserts. (Yes, it’s true, I have a lot of favorites.) The problem I have with pumpkin pie is that my serving size tends to be pie-sized. When it comes to sugar, moderation isn’t my strong suit. Recently, I made this pumpkin dip as an alternative to pumpkin pie. It still contains “sugar” but it’s a less refined and slightly healthier version. Plus, you get to skip the unhealthy crust and get the added benefit of a serving of fruit.

Amy's suggestion: Dessert. We have to have it. Even when we're trying to be health-conscious, that sweet tooth must be satisfied or we might just eat that whole pie out of desperation! I'm all about simple changes and this is my simplest. I make my pumpkin pie with Swerve, a sugar alternative that's perfect for my dad, who is diabetic, because it doesn't affect blood glucose levels. Did I mention it has zero calories? Oh, it does. Besides the sugar swap, I use skim milk instead of evaporated milk and two egg whites in place of one of the eggs in the recipe. Another tip - roll your crust a little thinner and get rid of the excess to save you some calories. You won't miss them, I promise!

We hope you find some of these suggestions helpful as you plan your Thanksgiving meals. Here's Carol's Pumpkin Dip recipe to get you started!


Got any healthy holiday alternatives? We'd love to hear them! 

29 comments:

  1. These are great healthy holiday recipes, Amy and Carol, and sensible alternatives for everyone. Roasted veggies are delicious and nowadays I always roast broccoli, which has a yummy nutty taste. Another recipe for green beans I like is called green beans gremolata. Basically steamed green beans (al dente) tossed with minced garlic, minced herbs like parsley and dill, lemon zest and just a dash of olive oil. Salt and pepper. Toss and serve at room temp. It’s more like a salad. Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. That sounds delicious, Janice!! I like green bean casserole but really prefer my veggies a little less "dressed".

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  2. Congratulations on the weight loss, Amy, and thanks for the recipe, Carol.

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    1. Thanks! It's been a lot of work but so worth it :)

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  3. I'm loving all the ideas, Carol and Amy! And you go girl on the 80lbs, Amy! That's awesome. I've been struggling with my metabolism dropping so all the cal saving ideas here are great. I haven't heard of riced cauliflower, but I did recently find gluten free pizza crusts made of cauliflower. And Carol, I need to try that pumpkin dip! Sounds delicious.

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    1. Thanks, Rula! Yes, riced cauliflower is the best. You can buy it in the frozen food section. Heat it up and serve it anytime a recipe calls for rice. It is such a calorie saver!

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    2. I'm totally going to look for it because I'm trying to cut carbs (except for good ones like quinoa). Thanks for the tip!

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  4. Amy, your weight loss is awesome. I'm sure you feel so much better. Is there an alternative for stuffing? It's my favorite even over pie. Oprah has some new soups out where she uses butternut squash in place of cheese in broccoli cheese soup, and cauliflower in other cream-laden soups. They're quite good.

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    1. Thanks, Roz. I saw some recipes for cauliflower stuffing as well - here's one - http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a50127/cauliflower-stuffing-recipe/
      I know it's not the same as stuffing but it would be a lot healthier. I have tried the Oprah soups - they are yummy!

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    2. Thanks, Amy. I will check out that recipe.

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  5. I must do that pumpkin dip! I used mashed cauliflower before it was available frozen. So much more convenient. Thanks for the comfort food tips as the temperature skids down her in Canuck-land.

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    1. Sweeet potatoes are also a good substitute (as long as you don't drown them in butter and brown sugar!) And definitely give Carol's pumpkin dip a try - it's delicious!

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  6. Wow! 80 pounds! That is so awesome! I thought the 18 pounds I lost was good. I admit, although I've been staying clear of all potatoes and carbs, I fully intended to gorge myself at Thanksgiving. But maybe a healthy alternative isn't such a bad thing.

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    1. Thanks, LeAnne - I had a lot more to lose than you did so 18 pounds is still AMAZING! Good luck making good choices. I always say I can eat anything, I just need to keep my portions reasonable. A sliver of pie won't kill me, but the whole pie could!

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  7. Congratulations, Amy! You should be very proud. I can't give up my mashed potatoes, so I'll do OT on the treadmill instead of hitting the mall on Black Friday. Have a great Thanksgiving!

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    1. Thanks, Jill! And sometimes an extra workout is the perfect solution!

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  8. Amy! Congratulations. Thanks to you both for all the great ideas for saving calories.

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  9. Congrats on the 80 pounds. I'm 12 pounds lighter than I was just two months ago. I'd be interested in any of those "lighter, but good tasting" recipes. As for Thanksgiving dessert, I'm a sweet potato pie girl. I don't like pumpkin, but I could eat the entire pie of sweet potatoes and anything else made with sweet potatoes.

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    1. Shirley, I grew up in Texas and we never had a Thanksgiving without sweet potato pie down there! I love sweet potatoes!

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    2. Thanks and good job to you too! Sweet potatoes are a great exchange for those mashed potatoes. I just recently gave sweet potatoes a chance and have fallen in love.

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  10. congratulations on your weight loss. these are some great ideas. I make a sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie with crust that is low on sugar and delicious.
    quilting dash lady at Comcast dot net

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    1. Thanks, Lori! Both of those sound yummy.

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  11. Congrats on the weight loss! That has to be one of the hardest things to do because we have to eat! I've been meaning to try the riced cauliflower.

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    1. Thanks, Patricia. Yes, it is super hard but the hard work is paying off, which makes it much easier! And you should try the riced cauliflower. It's my favorite!

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  12. LOVE these suggestions. I'm a potato freak at Thanksgiving but my usual way of doing them is definitely NOT figure friendly. This year, I lean toward the half and half idea--cut half the potatoes with cauliflower. That said, I'm also all about the stuffing/dressing...I sense an interesting challenge ahead as I"m following Amy's stellar success (hopefully). She's my inspiration!! Now to cut the holiday carbs...

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    1. You have been doing awesome and I love the half and half idea! xoxo

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  13. Wonderful ideas! And congratulations on that 80 lb.--that's some hard work!

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  14. You guys definitely made me hungry. Alas, in my family it's meat and potatoes, and the guys frown at the green bean casserole. LOL

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