Add a Bit of Health to Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is known as the feast day of all feasts in America, it’s only real rival makes its appearance in February in the form of the Super Bowl. However, unlike the Super Bowl, there are many opportunities to add Just A Pinch (pun intended) of health at Thanksgiving. The goal is to be mindful of ingredients while still keeping the tradition as well as flavor as decadent as ever! 

General Healthy Cooking Tips:

  • Cook as much from scratch as possible. The more you cook from scratch the more you can control the ingredients, limit additives and increase the flavor!
  • Be mindful of added sugar and fat (butter, oil, cream, and cheese) while cooking. The closer they are added to the end of the cooking process the less you will need. For example, use less oil to sauté stuffing vegetables than you typically would.
  • Use really flavorful oils – light olive oil, butter, and even bacon lard so that you can use less.

  • Use as many (fresh) spices as possible. They add flavor cutting back on the need for salt and fat. They also add tons of antioxidants and phytochemicals to the meal!

Pre-meal Tips:

  • Keep the appetizers light, offer cut up fresh veggies for people to nibble on.

  • Consider an earlier meal so attendees are less likely to starve themselves throughout the day and then gorge later.

  • Offer a simple salad with a vinegar based dressing for the first course.

  • Start everyone off with water instead of alcohol.

Side Dish Tips:

  • Add as many veggies as possible such as onions, leeks, carrots and celery to the stuffing.
  • Use a 100% whole grain bread for the stuffing.

  • Add pureed cauliflower to mash potatoes to slash calories but not volume.

  • Include at least one non-casserole type veggie side dish.

  • Opt for roasted green beans topped with almonds instead of casserole style.

  • Serve sweet potato casserole or pies with dessert instead of as a side dish.

  • Top sweet potato casserole with an oatmeal nut mix crust instead of marshmallows.

  • Make your own fresh lower sugar cranberry sauce (instead of the processed canned stuff).

Main Dish:

  • Bake turkey instead of deep frying it.

  • Offer gravy as optional.


Dessert & Baking:

  • Adding cinnamon to sweets may promote better blood sugar regulation and decrease the need for added sugar.
  • Adding vanilla can impart a sweeter tone, decreasing the need for added sugar.
  • Use less refined versions of sugar such as honey, maple syrup, raw sugar and coconut sugar.
  • Consider offering crustless pies or a fruit crisp as an option. (This will yield the same flavor but with fewer calories and carbohydrates.)

Other Tips:

  • Keep music very low or have no music. Research shows music increases calorie intake at meals.
  • Serve meal in a brightly lit area. Candlelight and dark rooms are associated with increased calorie intake.
  • Consider smaller plates. Research shows the bigger the plate the more consumed. A standard dinner plate is recommended to be 10 inches.