A Traditional Thanksgiving with a Healthy Twist| June 07, 2021
With Thanksgiving just days away, many of us are starting to think about preparations. This year, your typical thanksgiving plans may look a bit different, as it will for almost everyone. With the increased risk of passing COVID-19, comes increased awareness and precautions when it comes to keeping our loved ones healthy. Our gatherings this year may be smaller, including a few zoom calls to connect the family. If a virtual gathering is in store, don't despair because the holiday can still be enjoyed, just in a new creative way.
When starting to think about this wonderful holiday, it often starts with food. There are many mindsets when it comes to food and holidays anywhere from the meal being a huge stressor to something you can't wait to indulge in. For some, Thanksgiving may be a dreaded time as you annually sabotage your weight, leading to a negative mental spiral. Yet, it doesn't have to be that way this year! You can certainly experience this day in a healthy way. First and foremost, having a healthy relationship with food, along with a positive mindset can make all the difference in your holiday delight.
With that said, let's dive into planning for a healthy meal this year.
When I make Thanksgiving dinner, I stick to the traditional foods, but always add in as much nutrition as possible, as increasing my plant diversity is a health goal I strive to live by. What do I mean by this? Here's an example: Let's say on a typical weeknight you decide to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Well, you have the sauce and noodles- great! That's 2 plant sources, the wheat noodles and tomatoes in the sauce. However, add the sauce to a pot on the stove and bring to a simmer stirring in some garlic, minced onion, a bit of basil, sauteed mushrooms. Serve with some steamed broccoli. Now you have 7 plant sources in a matter of minutes.
So how do I do this on Thanksgiving? Let me share with you some takes on your traditional favorite dishes, but with a subtle healthy twist! Some of these foods can even be prepared ahead of time for easy cooking the day of: Can I hear it for planning ahead? Heck yesss!
Is it even Thanksgiving without a turkey? While, I wouldn't suggest making the turkey a huge serving on your plate, consider it more of a complement to the rest of your meal. Fill your plate with as many plant options as possible. And if you aren't a fan of turkey or prefer to stay away from meat, add extra side dishes from the rest of the options.
For your stuffing recipe, you can use regular (or gluten free) bread and make your usual recipe, maybe add in some mushrooms, celery and carrots! My personal favorite stuffing recipe uses onions, garlic, celery, herbs such as sage, thyme & rosemary (can be fresh or dried). I particularly like this one because it's easy and simple without a whole lot of hassle!
Okay if I am being honest here, this is my favorite place to add in some extra veggie goodness! 1/2 cauliflower, 1/2 potato mash so good that no one ever knows the difference! I also make with plant-based milk instead of whole milk as the recipe calls for. The rosemary makes for a fantastic burst of herb flavor!
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole is a must! I look forward to this almost as much as I look forward to the mashed potatoes. However, the traditional casserole is loaded with sugar. I particularly love this recipe because it uses fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned, coconut oil and maple syrup to replace the white sugar. It does keep with the brown sugar, but I fully support keeping some things the same! In addition, in following the recipe it details how to make ahead of time. To note, I also try to use as many fresh foods as possible, for all recipes, instead of canned.
I love preparing a sheet of roasted veggies including butternut squash, onions, brussel sprouts and parsnips, which makes for a wonderful combo of veggies. This dish is also great to prepare ahead of time by cutting the veggies the day before or a few hours ahead. Toss with some olive oil and roast at 350 for about 30-40 minutes. Right before it's done, I drizzle some maple syrup and chopped pecans on top for an extra crunch!
However, the veggies don't stop there, I usually make a separate stovetop (or in oven if you prefer) parsley carrots dish in addition to the roasted veggie sheet. I cut the carrots the morning of and keep in a pot of water ready to go!
Green Bean Casserole
My family won't allow thanksgiving without the green bean casserole! This dish is a new take using fresh green beans and a homemade sauce instead of the canned mushroom soup. For some in my household, they are adamant about the traditional recipe, so sometimes I give in and make both. However, over the years more and more are starting to fill their plates with the healthier version (recipe I included). So, with a little patience on my part, it's becoming a winner!
For me it's not thanksgiving without the cranberry sauce! This recipe uses fresh cranberries, which you can get way ahead of time because they keep well in the fridge. While there is a decent amount of sugar in this, it's all natural and unrefined, coming from the maple syrup. I also stir in some raw walnuts at the end for another source of healthy fats, plus I think it makes the dish just a tad bit tastier!
I'm fairly certain the meal would not be complete without the dessert! The pumpkin pie is a must along with a newly discovered warm fruit medley (served with vanilla ice cream of course!) I make the traditional pumpkin pie, but with a gluten free crust which comes out very well! The gluten-filled eaters in my house never notice the difference. As for the filling, I leave this classic alone, as some things just cannot be changed. If you want, you can substitute a dairy free milk or cream in the filling.
Now, for this awesome new warm cinnamon fruit dessert! It combines some favorite fall fruit for a sweet, but not too sweet finish to the meal. Serve warm and top, use either homemade whipped cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream. Yum!
Drinks vary by preference from beers to wine, fun cocktails to punches. This is completely up to you! I am sharing two favorite drinks here:
This holiday I challenge you to take advantage of adding some extra nutrition into the big meal. I bet your family and friends won't even notice, except for how wonderful the meal tastes! Further, I would love to hear which of these recipes you try. Do you have some favorites you'd like to share? Let's hear!
From all of us here at HEAL, we are so very grateful for you. So cheers to a happy, healthy and joyful Thanksgiving this year!
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