For many of us, Thanksgiving is a day to spoil our palates without pause. Unfortunately, throwing nutritional caution to the wind isn’t a privilege everyone can enjoy just because it is a holiday. For those with limited indulgent privileges, know that there are wholesome alternatives that are simple, easy, and readily available. It takes only a little creativity to upgrade an ingredient or two for a healthful version.
Curried Pumpkin Seeds
This is a great use for leftover jack-o-lantern seeds! Toss the seeds very lightly with oil or cooking spray, followed by salt, pepper, and a dusting of curry powder. Broil on low or roast them until they are golden and crispy, mixing them halfway through baking. Serve warm or at room temperature. If properly stored in an airtight container, these can be made up to 2-3 months in advance.
Savory cranberry chutney on top of reduced fat cream cheese. Serve with whole wheat crackers or baked sweet potato chips. Be mindful of refined sugar and sodium content in store-bought cranberry condiments. Homemade is always best!
If you’re willing to live through departure from the beloved classic roast turkey, consider making a Turkey and Sage Meatloaf. Not only is it much less maintenance and cooking time, but you will also be cutting back on fat grams ushered in by greasy turkey skin. Another great way to boost nutrition and fiber is by swapping quick oats for the traditional bread crumbs. It’s an easy way to add in some whole grain without compromising flavor. Finish the meatloaf with some cranberry chutney, or the traditional ketchup topping. You could even bake a whole grain stuffing right into the center of the loaf.
Don’t forget the veggie-lovers! Try a Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie. Load the bottom layer with carrots, onions, portobello mushrooms for meatiness, lentils, diced tomatoes, and any other veggies you prefer. Cook these together in a pot and then transfer them to a casserole dish. Layer with a top “crust” of mashed potatoes, or try mashed sweet potatoes to increase antioxidants. You can also substitute pureed cauliflower for a low carb entree. Top it off with a small amount of cheese and bake until the top is golden.
Roasted Pearl onions. You can find these little cocktail onions in the freezer section of your grocery store. Simply coat them lightly with oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and roast them at relatively high heat until they’re nicely browned. When they are done, toss them immediately with another light pinch of salt and some dried thyme.
Spinach salad with quinoa, almonds and chopped apples. This is tastiest when simply dressed with a lemon or red wine vinegar dressing made with heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil. Toast sliced or slivered almonds in a dry skillet till golden brown. This will give you a distinct flavor upgrade without adding a single calorie. If you would like to add cheese, go with a small amount of Parmesan, pecorino, or blue cheese. These are flavor-concentrated cheeses, so a small portion will go a long way.
Did you know you can substitute dark corn syrup with an equal amount of dark or amber agave nectar? This is very useful in pecan pie. Choose agave if you would like a less-processed alternative to corn syrup, and add eggs, salt, and vanilla, and bake as usual. Add a tablespoon of molasses for a more seasonal brown sugar flavor.
French Silk Pie
Switch up French silk pie and make it heart healthy! Making an avocado-based chocolate silk is so easy and doesn’t require heavy cream, eggs, or even cooking! Simply puree 2 ripe avocados with cocoa powder, a wholesome sweetener of your choice, salt, vanilla, and a dash of coffee flavor. If the mixture is too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of coconut or vanilla almond milk. It’s unlikely your guests will realize it’s not the real thing!
Hot Chai Cider
Brew a large batch of fairly strong chai tea. Apple cider is a perfect addition. It lightly sweetens the tea with its natural fruit sugar, while the spices in the chai perfectly compliment the apple flavor. Your final product should be about two parts chai to one part cider, but alter the proportions according to how sweet you like your tea.
Hot Cinnamon Coffee
This is so deliciously rewarding for how easy it is to prepare. Add about 3 or 4 dashes of cinnamon to your coffee grounds before brewing. It’s that simple. Vanilla almond milk makes a yummy alternative to creamer and adds minimal fat and sugar.
It’s okay to treat yourself on special occasions, but always do so mindfully and keep a sense of moderation. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and find ways to be active. Maintaining consciousness of these elements contributes to a healthy lifestyle, and aids in easing or preventing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and countless other conditions. Remember to balance what you eat if you are looking to avoid or diminish health issues. It all begins with treating your body right.