Saturday, November 17, 2012

5 ways to make Thanksgiving healthier

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and most of us eagerly await the annual tradition of stuffing ourselves like the French do their geese (fois gras anyone?). Granted, the holiday comes but once a year, so who can deny us the pleasure of breaking out those horribly unhealthy traditional recipes that we just "can't live without" at Thanksgiving? We've gotten so used to eating them year after year. But remember how you feel every year after you've indulged, not to mention the pounds you pack on every year between now and the New Year? Is it really worth it? If you said "hell, yeah", ok, I respect that. Then this article is not for you.

For the rest of us interested in eating well and not overdoing it, I believe we can still enjoy Thanksgiving (or any other food holiday) without depriving ourselves.

Here are my top 5 ways to make better choices while still enjoying yourself:

1. Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to reduce the carb load of a traditional Thanksgiving is by eating very, very small amounts of all the starchy stuff like rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams and pies. If you can muster the willpower, avoid them completely. While that's nearly impossible for most of us, make the carbs count. Go for the stuff you REALLY love, not the so-so foods that are just sitting there staring at you, but the things that you've really looked forward to and enjoy, and keep the quantities small. Eating fat along with a carb will keep blood sugar from spiking, so eat some if you're going to partake (butter on the bread, for instance).

2. Beware the appetizers! Steer clear of them. You will fill up quickly eating useless stuff, unless of course there are vegetables involved. Take a bite here and there if you must, but save yourself for dinner.

How cute is that? A turkey veg platter!
Focus on getting as many vegetables in you that you can. The unadulterated kind. The dishes that are healthy and still recognizable as vegetables. Not the green bean casserole drowning in cream of mushroom soup. That doesn't count as a veg. Fiber and antioxidants are your friends, and filling your plate with lots of them is by far the best thing you can do to minimize the damage.

3. Load up on the protein, i.e. the turkey. Next to vegetables, you should fill up on as much of that as you can. You can bet on a great night's sleep with all that tryptophan coursing through your veins, and you've gotten your protein needs met. Take advantage of eating a roasted turkey and don't skimp on it. It is so delicious and we don't usually eat it during the year, so indulge!

4. If you're doing any of the cooking, try to add nuts and seeds to some of the items. They offer healthy fats and fiber and belong so naturally on the Thanksgiving table. In fact, make a bowl of mixed nuts for an appetizer! Add almonds to green beans, walnuts to cranberry sauce, pecans to pie.........oh no, not that, sorry.

5. If you must have pie, then go for a small sliver of it just for the taste. Better yet, eat some berries with cream. Berries are low in sugar and are perhaps the best fruits we can eat. Here's what I'm bringing to my Thanksgiving potluck. I'm going to serve it along with whipped cream.

Mixed Berry Compote

6 cups fresh or frozen, unsweetened berries (raspberries, strawberries, red currants, or a combination of these)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For fresh berries: stem, wash and dry in collander. For frozen berries: thaw before using.
For a smooth pudding, process berries in a blender, 2 cups at a time, until pureed. For chunkier, process 4 cups, and chop the rest, blending with puree. Stir cornstarch in cold water until smooth. Combine berries and sugar in non-stick saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir cornstarch mixture again, then add into the berry mixture gradually, while still stirring. Reduce heat and let simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into a serving bowl, or individual dessert bowls. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Makes 4-6 servings.

This is traditionally garnished with a Vanilla Custard Sauce , but you may also use whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or heavy cream.

*This is a German recipe and it's called Rote Gruetze.



  1. Hi, Christina! I laughed out loud at your being respectful of those who don't care about eating healthier at the Thanksgiving feast. The whole, "Then this article is not for you" bit? Yeah, that's me. Because I totally load up and LOVE getting all of those calories on T-Day. But I kept reading anyway. =) Fun fun tone to your blog. Your voice is one of my favorite things about your writing. =) -Kate M.

    1. Hey, it's only 1 day, right? So why not partake? But then, 1 day may lead to 2, may lead to 3, may lead to 365. Then we're in for trouble! Thanks for posting, Kate!


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