2015: The Year of a Healthier Thanksgiving

It is that time of the year again. Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, and Pumpkin Pie overflow from the dining room table and kitchen counters. The Holidays can be daunting as many family gatherings are centered around food. But fret not! There are ways to make this Holiday Season a healthier one.

Think about your favorite Thanksgiving dish. Whether it is fluffy mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, or stuffing, the deliciousness of a recipe does not equate to the calories it contains. You can still have a delicious dish without as many calories, fat, sodium, etc. As a starting point, try swapping these ingredients in some of your dishes this Thanksgiving:

*Heavy Cream → Coconut Milk. Same taste and texture, but 1/2 the calories!

*Oil in cakes → Applesauce. Use 1 cup of applesauce for every recipe that calls for 1 cup of oil. Vegetable oil has 480 calories and 56g of fat in 1/4 cup; meanwhile, applesauce has 25 calories and 0g of fat for the same amount.

*One Whole Egg → Two egg whites. Two egg whites instead of one whole egg saves 36 calories
*Sour Cream → Greek Yogurt. This substitution will save 55 calories per ¼ cup.

*Buttermilk → Low-fat Plain Yogurt (1 cup of low-fat plain yogurt for every recipe that calls for 1 cup of buttermilk). Greek Yogurt decreases the amount of fat and sodium.

*Pasta → Whole-Wheat Pasta. Whole-wheat pasta has more fiber and decreases the calories per serving up to 50 calories.

*Chocolate Chips → Cacao Nibs/Dark Chocolate. Your desserts will be filled with antioxidants.

I attended a Mindful Cooking Series through Marquette Employee Wellness. There was a chef who made three Thanksgiving favorites: mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole. All of the dishes were delightfully delicious and the kicker is that they were healthier! I never thought that I would like any mashed potatoes more than my mom’s, but his mashed potatoes were wonderful! Instead of using butter and heavy cream, the chef used extra-virgin olive oil. This significantly lowered the calories, sodium, and fat from the normal mashed potato recipe. Give this a try!

Mashed Potatoes with Olive Oil and Herbs


2 pounds of russet potatoes
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped basil
1 tsp minced flesh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp minced tarragon
Freshly ground black pepper


Combine the potatoes, 1 tsp of salt, and cold water in a large saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil. After boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until able to poke through potato with a fork. Drain the potatoes, but save ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Place the potatoes back in the saucepan and shake over medium heat for 1 minute to dry potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl.
Add the oil and reserved cooking liquid to the saucepan and warm over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Mash the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes back to the saucepan. Add the basil, parsley, and tarragon, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed. After dished, make indent in the potatoes and pour a little extra-virgin olive oil to keep potatoes moist and soft. Enjoy!

A great article about ways to have a healthier Thanksgiving was written by Joanna Dolgoff, a Medical Doctor and nutrition specialist. Check out this article to get a healthier pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce recipe: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joanna-dolgoff-md/healthy-thanksgiving-tips-recipes_b_1092915.html!

Although calories and macro-nutrients can be scary, the Holidays should be about spending valuable time with friends and loved ones. Be conscious of the foods you are eating, but do not make this the main focus. Try to fill your Thanksgiving feast with more fruits and vegetables this year, as well as making an effort to substitute healthier options into your recipes so that you can sit back and relax instead of trying to mentally calculate every calorie you are consuming. Lastly, if you take anything away from this blog: eat foods in moderation. This will help you to not overindulge. If you do these things, you will be well on your way to a healthier Thanksgiving. And just think! Instead of being in a food coma after the big feast, if you do not fill yourself to the brim, you may be able to participate in the competitive family Turkey Bowl or go for a walk together around the neighborhood. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

By: Natalie Radloff

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