Is it possible to have a healthy Thanksgiving when the holiday itself is food-centric? The experts say yes, and all it takes is a little planning and out-of-the-box thinking.
You might associate traditional Thanksgiving sides with dishes like buttery mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffles with a marshmallow topping and creamy green bean casserole. However, they’re often high in calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates.
If you’re bypassing the “everything in moderation” rule and prefer a lighter holiday plate, check out a few of these festive, healthy Thanksgiving alternatives.
Lighter Thanksgiving Sides
Roasted Sheet Pan Veggies
Nothing smells better than your favorite veggies roasted in the oven. Veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, red onions, cubed sweet potatoes, zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes taste amazing when cooked to a warm crisp. Pair with your favorite oil, vinaigrette or other dressing.
Salads don’t have to be run of the mill. Consider bold flavor combinations like kale and cranberry; beets and apples; and mixed greens with figs. Mix together your own dressing that goes lighter on the calories while packing in additional bold flavors like poppy seed or Greek yogurt.
Spiced Sweet Potatoes
You don’t have to overload your sweet potatoes with butter, cream and marshmallows. Consider mashed sweet potatoes flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a little maple syrup.
This versatile veggie can me mashed with a little butter and salt, roasted with olive oil or added to soups and stews. You can even use it as a lighter Thanksgiving appetizer.
Butternut or Spaghetti Squash
Both of these squashes can be baked and then carved for a tasty base. Consider filling the halved squash with savory greens, low-sodium sauces and other Thanksgiving delights.
Quinoa is a lighter grain alternative that can be paired with olive oil, herbs, mixed greens, cranberries, pesto, roasted veggies and even pumpkin. It’s complimentary to anything!
Sometimes you can’t escape the heavier Thanksgiving dishes. That’s okay! All you need is an action plan to pull out in times of anxiety or discomfort.
For starters, snack on something light in the morning to curb your appetite. If you’re looking to shave calories, consider forgoing any alcohol in favor of flavored water.
Let your loved ones know ahead of time that despite the holiday, you are still managing your weight. Communicate your concerns and choices if necessary.
Finally, stay active! Go for a walk before and/or after Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of hovering around the table, enjoy time outside with family and friends. Remember that the focus of this holiday isn’t about food, despite its commercialization. Make this special holiday about giving thanks for what you have and being with people you love.