How to Prepare a Healthy and Delicious Thanksgiving Meal

How to Prepare a Healthy and Delicious Thanksgiving Meal

Nov 21 2020

Cooking a healthy and delicious Thanksgiving meal can be easy, stress-free and delicious.

3,000 calories…

That’s the average consumption for Americans on Thanksgiving Day, according to the Calorie Control Council. And it’s way over the recommended daily caloric intake values for both men and women.

Thanksgiving is meant to be a day of giving thanks and spending time with loved ones — not dreading calories.

Thanksgiving is meant to be a day of giving thanks and spending time with loved ones — not dreading calories. And it still can be.

Preparing a healthy and delicious Thanksgiving meal can be stress-free with a little prep. The first step is making a menu plan:

  1. Schedule your meal time thoughtfully — eating at a time not normally during the dinner hours can cause snacking before and after meal time.
  2. Choose the main dish — white turkey is better than dark turkey. If turkey isn’t on the menu, other white meats are leaner than red meats.
  3. Eliminate the unnecessary — foods like cranberry sauce are packed with sugar; make a homemade cranberry relish instead. Sweet potato sides are often topped with butters and sugars — instead of adding extras enjoy their natural flavor, or sprinkle with cinnamon.
  4. Give appetizers a makeover — instead of chips and dips or fried foods, offer a light start to the meal such as vegetables with hummus or a homemade trail mix.
  5. Plan smaller portions — serve bite-sized desserts such as individual glasses of pumpkin mousse. This display will wow guests and also cuts out pie crust for a gluten-free alternative.
Priority Health - Personal Wellness- Thanksgiving - Healthy Options

After a menu has been set, think about any substitutions that can be used as healthy alternatives. For example:

  • Applesauce for oil, butter or sugar — this keeps the consistency the same without all the fat, adds fiber and also offers a dairy-free option. Swap one cup butter for one cup applesauce.
  • Agave for sugar — this is a great vegan option and agave is sweeter than white sugar so the amount can be reduced. Swap one cup of white sugar for two-thirds of a cup of agave.
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt for mayonnaise or sour cream – nonfat Greek yogurt has fewer calories.
  • Black beans for flour — this is a great way to cut out gluten and add protein. Swap out one cup flour for one cup black bean puree.
  • Nuts for croutons in salads — unsalted nuts still give a crunch but instead of salty croutons this option is heart-healthy and gluten-free.
  • Zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash for pasta — use these veggies to replace high-carb pasta dishes. This is a great way to cut calories and sneak in vegetables.
  • Steam instead of boil — important nutrients can boil out into the water but steaming keeps nutrients in vegetables.

Finally, build in some fun (and in 2020, safe and social-distanced) fall activity  into the day like a post-meal walk, a hike at a nearby park or a yard game to work off some of those extra calories.

Just remember, healthy and delicious are not mutually exclusive.

This year, make great Thanksgiving memories and leave behind the stress of gaining weight or breaking healthy eating goals.