Thanksgiving Dinner is probably the largest meal of the year, larger even than Christmas dinner. It’s the one time a year when all of the family is guaranteed to come together and enjoy all the classics: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green casserole, pumpkin pie, and the list goes on. Most people tend to go a bit overboard when it comes to Thanksgiving—after all, it’s just one time a year. But if you do Thanksgiving Dinner right, you can make it a whole lot healthier!
Turkey, Sans Gravy
This’ll be a tough one for a lot of people! Turkey can be a fairly dry meat, so it needs that gravy to moisten things up and make the white, lean meat easier to eat. Unfortunately, gravy is just extra calories, with a whole lot of useless carbs (from the white flour used to thicken it) and fat (from the turkey drippings). Turkey on its own, however, is one of the best quality meats on the planet. It contains a hefty dose of protein per serving, is fairly lean, and delivers a beautiful dose of critical minerals. If you want to serve a healthy Thanksgiving dinner plate, always start with turkey, but no gravy.
Cranberry Sauce, Homemade
Cranberries are one of the best sources of Vitamin C on the planet, and they contain a hefty dose of other critical antioxidants. They can also lower the risk of cardiac disorders, reduce your cholesterol levels, prevent age-related vision loss, improve your oral health, and decrease your chances of UTIs. Unfortunately, most people tend to eat something more along the line of cranberry jelly, which is loaded with extra sugar and calories. If you can make your own homemade cranberry sauce, you can get all the nutrients from the berries with far less of that nasty sugar.
Greens, Baked or Sauteed
Green bean casseroles, broccoli with cheese sauce, cabbage and bacon, brussels sprouts covered in gravy—these are all dishes that take healthy green veggies add in A LOT of unnecessary calories. Greens should be the highlight of your Thanksgiving meals, and you should make it a priority to load your plate with salads and cooked veggies. However, try to avoid cooking the greens with extra calories, particularly starches. Make your greens baked in the oven or lightly sautéed in a pan, with as little oil as possible. Light flavoring for your veggies can actually help to contrast the rest of the rich, heavy components in your dinner!
Sweet Potatoes, Uncasseroled
Sweet potato casserole is one of the WORST Thanksgiving dishes, but it’s not the potatoes’ fault. Sweet potatoes are incredibly high in nutrients, particularly Vitamin A. They’re also loaded with resistant starch, which is harder for your body to break down and thus require more time to digest. If you can skip out on all the fluff and just serve lightly cooked sweet potatoes with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, you’ll find that this is one of the healthiest additions to your dinner.
Dessert, from Raw Ingredients
There’s nothing like a nice apple pie or pumpkin pie to finish off the meal and shut down your appetite. Unfortunately, too often those desserts are loaded with extra calories of fat and sugar—the pie crust, the hefty servings of sugar mixed into the pie filling, and the list goes on. But if you make your own desserts, you can find ways to cut back on the sugar. Emphasize the natural flavors and go for low-carb ingredients, and you’ll find your dessert is much healthier than you’d expect!