It’s the age-old struggle: You’ve been looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner all year, but you know that many of these foods are bad for you. Rather than make your tastebuds and willpower fight it out, consider cooking healthier versions of your favorite dishes this year. With a few ingredient substitutions and smart choices, you’ll be enjoying this holiday meal (mostly) guilt-free.
Thanksgiving’s main attraction, turkey is rich in protein, vitamin B6, niacin, and tryptophan, an essential amino acid. To make the most of turkey’s nutritional benefits, roast, smoke, or use a slow cooker rather than deep frying; stick with white meat, which has less calories and fat than dark meat; and opt for an oil spray over butter or olive oil.
Recipe recommendation: Herb-Roasted Turkey
Stuffing is high in calories and sodium, but you can take some steps to make it healthier. Use a low-sodium broth and add some chopped fruits and veggies to the mix, such as lemons, apples, onions, carrots, and celery. Find a recipe that calls for wild rice and grains instead of bread crumbs, and avoid including too much fatty bacon and sausage. Instead, use lots of fresh herbs — rosemary, sage, thyme, and marjoram — to add flavor. Since stuffing absorbs fat from the turkey when it’s cooked inside, you’ll want to bake it in a casserole dish instead.
Recipe recommendation: Farro Stuffing With Butternut Squash, Red Onion, and Almonds
Mashed potatoes may be known for their high quantities of carbs and fat, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them to make Thanksgiving dinner healthier. Rather than using cream and butter, use the starchy water in which the potatoes were boiled to give them a creamy texture. If water doesn’t cut it, you could also add fat-free sour cream, evaporated skim milk, or chicken or turkey broth. Consider adding roasted garlic and herbs for added flavor, and pureed cooked turnips, parsnips, or cauliflower for extra nutrition.
Recipe recommendation: Creamy Turnip-Potato Purée
Sweet potatoes have many antioxidants that reduce inflammation and may even ward off some kinds of cancer. However, the candied sweet potatoes commonly used for Thanksgiving are also very high in sugar. To enjoy the antioxidants and skip the sugars, go with roasted sweet potato slices or a plain baked sweet potato. If you really miss the sweetness of the candied version, try drizzling your sweet potatoes with a little honey before cooking.
Recipe recommendation: Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Many people offer multiple Thanksgiving dessert options, but that doesn’t mean you should try each one. Pumpkin pie has less calories than both apple and pecan, and even packs some vitamins, including A, B12, C, E, and D. The crust is the biggest source of fat in a pie, so going crustless — or at least finding a reduced-fat crust — will be your healthiest option.
Recipe recommendation: Crustless Libby’sⓇ Famous Pumpkin Pie