Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays! 🙏🏻 It is the perfect time to reflect on what we are grateful for and to give thanks for everything we have. From appreciating our good health to being surrounded by loving family members and supportive friends, there's always a reason to celebrate gratitude.
When you think about Thanksgiving, usually what comes to mind is a big, lavish, not-so-healthy dinner, with all the traditional dishes like an enormous marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, creamy mashed potatoes, and of course, a giant stuffed turkey!
But what happens when you, or your loved ones, are trying to stick to a new, healthier way of eating? Sometimes it might feel discouraging as you don't want to feel left out, but on the other hand, you also don't want to overindulge in all the calorie-heavy meals.
No worries, a feast with options suitable for everyone is possible!
These simple swaps are great alternatives to classic Thanksgiving meals. Who knows, maybe you and your family will discover new recipes that will become a new tradition. We certainly hope you enjoy these meals as much as we do!
Instead of frying your turkey (yes, we know, that's how it tastes better, but it's definitely not the healthiest choice!) or buying a pre-seasoned turkey, try making your own in the oven. That way, you select which ingredients to use when seasoning the turkey.
Cranberry Sauce 🍒
It's not new that canned cranberry sauce has high fructose corn syrup, so why not skip buying the sauce from a store and try making it from scratch? Your cranberry sauce will taste better and will be healthier. Unexpected benefit? It will also make the whole house smell amazing!
Healthy Cranberry Sauce
Time: 12 minutes
Yield: about 2 cups
- 12 oz (340 g) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Optional add-ins: ½ tsp orange zest, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, chopped pecans, etc.
- Add all the ingredients to a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 6-8 minutes. Stir the mixture frequently to ensure the ingredients don't burn or stick to the pan. Once the sauce has thickened and most of the cranberries have popped, remove the pot from the heat.
- Use a fork, or potato masher, to pop the remainder of the cranberries, if desired. Let cool completely before serving. (Leftover sauce will keep in the fridge for up to one week.)
Thanksgiving stuffing is well known for being one of the most common side dishes served during Thanksgiving. However, stuffing is often stuffed (no pun intended 😉) with high amounts of fat, calories, and salt. Try the below alternatives for a healthier side to accompany your turkey this year.
- Eggplant and Mushroom Stir Fry
Eggplants and mushrooms are rich in fiber and packed with numerous vitamins and minerals. This side plate will not only taste delicious but will also be nutritious and highly filling.
To make an eggplant and mushroom stir fry, start by cutting the vegetables into similar-sized slices. Place the cut vegetables in a frying pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Cook the vegetables until they are browned on the edges, and season with herbs and spices. Remove the cooked vegetables from the stove, place them in a large serving dish, and enjoy!
Using quinoa instead of stuffing is a great way to get a side of carbs in during Thanksgiving. Quinoa is easy to prepare; just follow the instructions on the side of the box. If you want a taste similar to traditional stuffing, you can use chicken stock or broth instead of water when cooking.
- Wild Rice
Just like eggplant and mushrooms, rice is rich in dietary fiber.
For an even tastier flavor, consider adding onions, celery, and other vegetables when cooking rice. Also, experiment by using different herbs and spices when seasoning.
Swap the processed gravy for a homemade version using the turkey's drippings.
Healthy Gravy Recipe
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 16 servings of 1 spoon of gravy
- 1 cup turkey drippings
- 4 cups unsalted stock (chicken or turkey)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup milk or non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup cornstarch, or whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- After you roast the turkey, place the roasting pan with the turkey drippings on the stovetop over medium-high heat.
- Add the stock to the pan, then stir and scrape any turkey bits from the bottom of the roasting pan.
- Strain and pour the gravy liquid into a bowl and place it in the fridge for about 15-30 minutes to let the fat float to the top and harden.
- Remove hardened fat with a spoon and place the stock into a saucepan. Add in the garlic, sage, and thyme.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the stock is reduced by 1/4, or until about 3 cups remain.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk milk and cornstarch until well combined.
- Pour the milk mixture into the stock, stirring slowly.
- Let the gravy simmer, and frequently stir until the stock thickens, usually for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Another alternative for gravy is yogurt. It might sound odd, but don't knock it until you try it!
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, as it's a micronutrient essential for bone health and many other body functions. Plain yogurt has a mild taste that goes well with various dishes. Try experimenting with different herbs and spices (such as basil, rosemary, and thyme). Also, you can add some low-sodium bullion to the yogurt, making it even more flavorful.
Sweet Potato Casserole 🍠
We know marshmallows are delicious, but why not try topping your sweet potato casserole with a healthier alternative this year?
Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Although these ingredients are not the healthiest, they definitely are better for you than marshmallows!
Pumpkin Pie/or Apple Crumble 🥧
We are not here to tell you to skip the pie or crisp (that would be silly), but we recommend leaving off the canned whipped cream. Why not make whipped cream from scratch or add fresh fruit as a topping? You will feel lighter even after indulging!
We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones! 💜