On Thanksgiving, many will gather together to dig in to a delicious meal, but that usually includes dishes loaded with calories.
Here’s some good news: You can enjoy traditional foods like sweet potatoes and cranberry relish without the guilt by changing up a few things.
Health and wellness expert Shanthi Appelo, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said in general, there are ways you can still indulge in your Thanksgiving favorites without going overboard.
- Practice moderation. When making your plate, be sure it is balanced, meaning, make sure you have a little bit of food from all the food groups. You should keep your starches to 1/4 of the plate. Load up on the proteins to keep you full longer, and limit the sauce and gravy to 2 tablespoons each.
- Wait. If you are still hungry after your first serving, wait about 20 minutes before going back for seconds, because it takes a while for your brain to realize how full you actually are.
- Practice mindful eating. Really try to savor the food and the company, instead of plowing through your plate in record-breaking time. Take in the smells the sounds the textures, and really enjoy everything that is going on around you, and you will probably have a more satisfying meal.
Now, let’s talk specific dishes. Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple that already have a ton of nutrients and fiber, Appelo said, but they are often loaded up with tons of sugar. Instead of piling on the butter and brown sugar, try either of these two recipes listed below:
Savory Sweet Potato Appetizer Bites (makes 15-20 bites)
- 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
- 1 tbsp for potatoes + 1 tsp olive oil for spread
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/3 cup goat cheese
- 1/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Toss sweet potato slices into 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a lined baking sheet, leaving spaces in between.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender. While sweet potatoes are baking, combine cranberries, pecans, thyme, salt, pepper, 1 tsp olive oil and honey in a small bowl.
- Take out sweet potatoes and top with cranberry and pecan mixture. Bake for another 5-8 minutes. Top with goat cheese and serve.
Upscaled Sweet Potato Fries
- 1 pound of sweet potatoes, uniformly and thinly cut (about ¼ in wide)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- Toppings: salt and pepper to taste, 1 tbsp chopped chives, 2 tbsp grated parmesan
- Garlic aioli: ¼ cup light mayonnaise, 1 clove garlic, salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- (Optional step) Soak fries for 30 minutes, then dry.
- In a bowl, toss the fries in olive oil, then toss in cornstarch, smoked paprika and garlic. Do not season with salt, do this at the end so moisture isn’t pulled from the potato, causing soggy fries.
- Place fries on a lined baking sheet, leaving space between.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping the fries halfway.
- While fries are roasting, combine garlic aioli ingredients. Toast garlic clove in a non-greased pan over medium-high heat until browned if a more complex garlic flavor is desired.
- Allow fries to cool for about 10 minutes, place in a desired serving dish or glass with parchment paper, then drizzle over with garlic aioli, parmesan and chives.
The same thing goes for another Thanksgiving classic -- cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce that you buy in the store often loses all the good fiber cranberries naturally have. Plus, there is a bunch of added sugar in the canned stuff. Check out this recipe below for a tasty cranberry relish that’s packed with fiber, healthy fats and less sugar.
Cranberry Apple Walnut Sauce
This recipe is loaded in fiber from leaving the skin on the cranberries, and adding apples and walnuts. This recipe boasts 10 grams less sugar per serving than traditional cranberry sauce.
- 8 oz bag cranberries
- 1 apple of your choice, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
- ½ cup water
- Ground allspice, a pinch
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp brandy (optional)
- Simmer water, honey, cranberries, allspice and cinnamon over medium heat for 5-10 minutes (until cranberries start to pop). Stir frequently.
- Add walnuts and apples, let simmer for 5 minutes and stir.
- Stir in brandy and let simmer for another minute.
- Remove from heat, let cool and serve or store.
- Serving size: ¼ cup
- Calories 107
- Fat 3g
- Carbohydrates 18g
- Sugar 15g
- Fiber 2g
- Protein 2g