Make Healthier Choices This Thanksgiving

 Source | Kaboom Pics

Source | Kaboom Pics

Thanksgiving dinner. The holiday where it is perfectly normal to indulge on savory foods, sip refreshing drinks, and crash for a tryptophan-powered nap afterwards. It is that special day where family get together and whip up their list of favorite foods to add to the buffet table. Between the turkey, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, greens, and pie, you seldom want to miss an opportunity to indulge in the decadent goodness. It only happens once a year, so why not right?!

While it is fine to indulge, thanksgiving does provide an opportunity for us to make healthier food choices. It is just a matter of awareness and willpower; choose nutrient-filled dishes to accompany your slice of the turkey. But what happens when you are stuck doing the cooking? Get inspired to find healthier versions of the dishes you plan to make. I prefer Pinterest when it comes to finding vegetarian-friendly versions.

While I am not saying, you shouldn’t indulge yourself and ignore your favorites. You can! Take a bit of that mac and cheese. Just be mindful and mentally monitor your food selections. Below, are some healthier swap ideas to the typical thanksgiving meal choices:

CULPRIT #1: Ham

I get it. If the turkey is not well prepared, season and roasted, there is the other protein option to choose from like ham. Yes, this meaty option can keep you full and satisfied. But, that’s it. No real health benefit. While lean ham is low in fat, the whole ham can bring a huge amount of saturated fat. The kind of fat that is not good for your heart. Not to mention, the high amount of sodium and the obnoxious glazing of sugar.

 Source | Public Domain

Source | Public Domain

SWAP WITH THIS INSTEAD: Oven Roasted Turkey

The infamous main dish is lean, high in protein and yields the nutrients: zinc, potassium and iron. How you prepare it is just as important to enjoy a delicious, flavorful healthy protein. Also choosing white meat over the dark, can save you about 50 calories in a 3 ounce portion.

I am actually a vegetarian but I can recall having turkey duty when it came to dinner. I use a mixture of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper, chopped fresh herbs and thoroughly massage the bird and beneath the skin with the seasonings. I prepared it overnight to allow the seasoning to infuse. Prior to roasting, I used an aromatic blend of halved lemons, sages, sweet onions, sage and rosemary to stuff the cavity.

CULPRIT #2: Chef Salad

 Source | Kaboom

Source | Kaboom

The famous American salad that consist of hard-boiled eggs, a variety of meats, cucumber slices, tomatoes, and cheese all on a bed of lettuce is lacking in healthy points. Not to mention, the generous creamy dressing that is made from a base of mayonnaise compounds the added calories and fats. Just because it’s a salad, doesn’t make it healthy.

SWAP WITH THIS INSTEAD: Green Leafy Salad

Switch it up and go for a salad bowl made with nutrient dense, dark green goodness: kale, spinach, romaine lettuce and arugula. Toss in some cherry tomatoes, sliced red onions or colorful bell pepper slices and you got a beautiful bowl of salad made for a goddess (or god!). Just be mindful about the type of dressing you use- avoid the creamy stuff that is definitely high in calories and sodium. I typically make my own simple lemon vinaigrette so I can monitor the salt use.

CULPRIT #3: Sweet Potato Casserole

Growing up the typical MO for the sweet potatoes included an arsenal of candied yams, maple syrup and tons of marshmallows. These days, too much sugar is just not an option. My dad is diabetic and that has always been a huge concern for me. So, reevaluating this dish was no exception.

Let’s face it. The typical sweet potato casserole consists of mashed sweet potatoes, butter, brown sugar, pecans, and generous topping of fluffy marshmallows. What started as a veggie dish transforms into a sweet pudding. With so much sugar, it’s no wonder that it tasted less like sweet potato!

SWAP WITH THIS INSTEAD: Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes

What I love about sweet potato is the taste and the burst of nutrients it possesses like beta carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium and fiber. Preparing sweet potatoes doesn’t require the added sugar to taste fabulously; again, it is all in preparation.

To begin, chop the sweet potatoes into quarters. Dress it in olive oil and add your favorite spices like cinnamon, cloves, and a touch of nutmeg. Spread on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle maple syrup. Pop it in the oven and bake. The roasting will add to the natural sweetness and will bring out the flavor rather nicely.

CULPRIT #4: Canned Cranberry Sauce

Did you know that a quarter cup serving of canned cranberry sauce contains about 24 grams of sugar? That is 6 tablespoons of sugar masked within corn syrup! I would rather keep my dessert as the savory and sweet of the bunch than to use this less-than-healthy often flavorless cranberry sauce.

 Source | Jessica Lewis

Source | Jessica Lewis

SWAP WITH THIS INSTEAD: Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Since I can remember, I love to make the cranberry sauce for the cool popping noise the cranberries makes. Haha. Weird, I know. But these fun little fruits have so much to offer from a nutrient perspective. The whole berries are full of flavonoids and are rich in Vitamin C.

These flavonoids are capable of preventing urinary tract infections including certain types of cancer. Plus, that deep shade of red from its skin signals that it is potent of the phytochemical known as anthocyanin; the same chemical that possess anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

To make your own homemade cranberry sauce recipe: in a saucepan filled with water, bring to a boil the cranberries, swap the sugar for date syrup and add a sprinkle of cinnamon. Less sugar used without sacrificing the taste.

CULPRIT #5: Pecan Pie

Pecan pies are ultra decadent and have ultra calories; to put it in perspective, one-eight slice of pecan pie contains a little over 500 calories. While it is just one day of the year to indulge in desserts, there are other options to choose from for your sweet tooth fix that may just offer some nutritional benefit too.

 Source | Element5 Digital

Source | Element5 Digital

SWAP WITH THIS INSTEAD: Pumpkin Pie

The classic made it to the list for its noteworthy nutritious ingredient, pumpkin. Like sweet potato, the pumpkin is high in beta carotene and fiber. It should be noted to keep the nutritious value in it, limit the amount of sugar towards the preparation. Plus, you can skip the whip cream, the pie is sweet enough. Just like you for reading this article!

If you like this post, share with your family and friends today! I wish you all a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday filled with love, gratefulness, kindness and peace!