Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes from a Hospital Dietitian

Posted on: November 12, 2013

Have a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving

by Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, CDN, Northern Westchester Hospital

ThanksgivingCranberry sauce, loaded mashed potatoes, green been casserole (with French fried onion toppings), creamed spinach…the list goes on for traditional Thanksgiving fare. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-popular deep fried turkey.  It’s no wonder the phrase “healthy thanksgiving sides” is often uttered: “thanksgiving sides, healthy?”

You don’t have to forfeit flavor when making a side dish in order to make it healthy. Many traditional sides can be modified to decrease calories. Try these below with your family this year:

Breaking the Tradition – Five Guilt-Free Sides:
#1 Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Keep the canned cranberry sauce on the shelf this year and try making your own instead!  Fresh cranberries are full of antioxidants, have great flavor and make the perfect chunky side or topping to your turkey. Yes, it will be a little extra work to prepare but you’re sparing yourself the extra calories and added sugars.

#2 Sweet Potatoes with Brown…Cinnamon!
Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and rich in other nutrients, such as Vitamins A & C making it a fantastic side dish. When it comes to toppings, instead of butter or cream try fruit such as pineapple or bananas and swap the brown sugar for cinnamon.

#3 Oven Roasted or Sautéed Veggies
Instead of creamed vegetable sides try a variety of vegetables to roast or sauté! Great options include onions, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and winter squashes.  Season lightly with olive oil and your favorite spices like rosemary or thyme for a burst of flavor.

#4 Cauliflower or Parsnip Mash
A fantastic substitute to mashed potatoes! Be sure to use skim milk, chicken broth or Greek yogurt to add fluffiness and hold the butter to save on calories. Add chives, scallions, shallots or garlic for added flavor and color. If you don’t want to forfeit the mashed potatoes, then try cutting in half and mixing with the cauliflower or parsnip mash.

#5 Pumpkin or Fruit Parfaits
I don’t believe in ridding of pumpkin anything on Thanksgiving – it’s certainly too good of a fall favorite. Serve pureed pumpkin or fruit parfaits with non-fat Greek yogurt, plain yogurt or cottage cheese for a fabulous guilt-free dessert. Some fabulouse, fall fruits include: pomegranate, apple, cranberries, pears and figs.

In addition to the menu, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Don’t Deprive Yourself. Holidays are a time of enjoyment. If you want to taste everything, have smaller portions of those higher calorie items.
2. Don’t Go Hungry. This can lead to overindulging and you may end up eating more calories.
3. Drink in Moderation. Alcoholic beverages contain calories too.
4. Exercise after Eating. A nice family walk after dinner can be beneficial. It will get your metabolism going and help you digest your meal so you don’t feel full and sleepy.