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.
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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
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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.
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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!