A Healthy Twist on Thanksgiving

By November 21, 2016 December 28th, 2018 No Comments

Deep fried turkey, creamy green bean casserole, and spicy pumpkin pie; oh my!  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because I get to spend it with my large, rambunctious family.  Of course, I also love Thanksgiving because of the over-abundance of mouth-watering food everywhere I look! 

Thanksgiving should not be ALL about food though.  Thanksgiving should be a time for exactly that – giving thanks.  We should reflect on all that we are thankful for and feel great about giving away our deliciously prepared dishes as fuel for the rest of the day – or for assistance with naps in front of the television… Although a family flag football game is a much better option!

As a registered dietitian, I try to keep my family’s holiday indulgences somewhat in line; and I always encourage some form of group physical activity.  Because I am all about keeping my loved ones around as long as possible, I like to introduce one “healthier” Thanksgiving habit per year and encourage (force) my family to participate.  If you are looking for ways to keep your Thanksgiving and your family a little healthier this holiday season try some of these tricks that I have tested with my own family:

If you are all together on Thanksgiving morning go for a walk together before the craziness of cooking begins.  A walk after dinner never hurts either. 

I know you have heard this before, but always eat breakfast and/or lunch before the big dinner; even if you just scramble a couple eggs.  Eating a small amount before the big event can help control your appetite. 

Have each person that eats with you bring one new “healthier” dish to try – this could be a kale and goat cheese salad, chipotle mashed cauliflower, or roasted butternut squash soup. I know some amazing dishes are just not the same without the full-fat butter or cream, but make it a goal to lighten up just one of your normal recipes – try plain fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make the gravy. 

Don’t waste your plate on foods that you can get all year long, like potato chips and peanut M&M’s – go for the cider-glazed turnips and potatoes or the cranberry pecan-stuffed pork chops. 

Try to resist going back for seconds or thirds – everyone knows leftover Thanksgiving food is THE best – Hot Turkey Sandwich, anyone! 

Have everyone in your family do a 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning!  

It has been fun to test these healthy Thanksgiving tweaks with my family.  Some of them have actually become traditions!  Every year we incorporate a couple healthier dishes; one of which is always a big dark green, protein-packed salad.  We also go for a walk or play football or soccer with the little ones after dinner – even if it is for 15 minutes.  I encourage and challenge you to include some of these healthy traditions with your own families!  Remember, Thanksgiving should really be a time to celebrate relationships and time spent with family and friends; not what is being set out on the dinner table.  Of course, you can still fully enjoy the honey roasted ham, sweet potato marshmallow casserole, and autumn harvest cobbler to your thankful heart’s content. 

If you are looking for a healthy dish to take to your family’s Thanksgiving dinner try out this one from my own family!
Thanksgiving Quinoa Salad 
Serves 8

8 Romaine Lettuce Leaves
2 ½ cups Baby Spinach
1 cup Quinoa
2 medium Apples
1 Red Pepper
1 small Purple Onion (optional)
2 ounces cashew pieces (optional)
¼ cup low-fat Feta Cheese
1) Cook the quinoa according to package directions.  When done cooking chill in the refrigerator or freezer.
2) Shred the romaine lettuce into long, thin pieces (or whatever texture you like). Chop the baby spinach.  Cut the apples into slices. Dice red pepper and onion.  Toss all of this into a salad bowl, along with the cashew pieces.
4) Toss the cooled quinoa with a red wine vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing.  When ready to serve toss with the salad mixture.
5) Top with low-fat Feta Cheese. 

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