A Big Thanksgiving with Little Guilt

Posted on October 26, 2014


By: Katie Butler

10450-Healthy-Thanksgiving-Recipes-Spry__crop-landscape-534x0Thanksgiving is known to be one of the biggest, most traditional meals of the year. However, it is also known as being one of the most, well, unhealthy meals, often including dishes that are, while scrumptious, not the best for our bodies. However, there are a few small changes one can make to keep a Thanksgiving meal tasting great while making it great for our bodies too. Here are some tips to make your Thanksgiving meal one you won’t ever feel guilty about.

The Turkey

As the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, the turkey often gets the most notoriety, and for that reason, I think it should be eaten traditionally on Thanksgiving without any alternative recipes taking its place. However, if you are looking for healthy options when it comes to the meat of the meal, you can make sure to eat the white meat of the turkey, which is less fatty than the dark meat, and has about forty percent less calories in it. In addition, instead of dumping all that gravy all over your turkey, opt for spices instead. One can either use a mix of spicier spices, such as pepper, crushed red pepper, and garlic for an extra kick, or less-intense spices, such as rosemary and oregano, to give your turkey some extra flair. Therefore, you get the great tasting meat you want without the extra fat and flour that gravy brings.

Mashed Potatoes

Though mashed potatoes are another Thanksgiving staple, the best-kept secret of making healthy mashed potatoes doesn’t involve potatoes at all. The secret? Cauliflower. Simply boil cauliflower until it is soft, strain the water, and mix with skim milk or light butter, spices, and maybe a few chives, and you have the perfect alternative for mashed potatoes. Though the consistency is a tad grainier than potatoes, cauliflower makes the perfect substitute for a healthier side dish for your Thanksgiving meal, tasting almost exactly the same, yet monumentally healthier than traditional mashed potatoes.  If you must have potatoes, opt for sweet potatoes, a super food that offers many vitamins at half the calories of regular potatoes.

Dinner Rolls

Although we all love the traditional white rolls served with Thanksgiving dinner, having a whole grain option will replace the empty sugars and carbohydrates that white bread offers. In addition, whole grains provide energy and nourishment that your body needs. 

Green Bean Casserole

If you are going to eat a vegetable, you might as well make it healthy, right? So skip the cream and bread bits that go into a green bean casserole, and instead roast vegetables with virgin olive oil and garlic. Simply cut whatever vegetables you want and place them on a tray, lightly drizzle olive oil and ground garlic over the vegetables, and bake until the crisp that you want is acquired. This nice and light addition will cut calories significantly from your meal, giving you more room to indulge in the sweet stuff- pecan pie!

Pecan Pie

I know we all love Pecan Pie, but as one of the unhealthiest desserts out there, made entirely of sugar and butter, it is best to stick to its yummy counterpart, pumpkin pie. Both lighter and more nutritious with calcium, iron, and Vitamin A, pumpkin pie allows one to indulge on Thanksgiving as one should, yet doing so knowing that what he or she is eating does indeed have nutritional value.

Cranberry Sauce

Nobody wants cranberries from a can, mixed with sugar and syrup or other preservatives. Instead, buy natural cranberries, sprinkle with a little bit of brown sugar or mix with low-fat Greek yogurt, and your sweet tooth will be more than happy (and so will your blood-sugar levels).


It is hard to find a healthy alternative to the stuffing of a meal, but cooking anything at home instead of buying store-made and pre-packaged stuffing will automatically make your side dish that much healthier. Also, load up on the veggies included in stuffing while cutting down on the bread used for an automatic calorie cut and nutritional increase.


Though it is traditional, eggnog is one of the unhealthiest drinks out there. Instead, opt for wine or cider, both of which are fewer calories, more nutritional, and make you less full, allowing you to enjoy more of your meal that you spent so long preparing.

Other tips

1. Make everything at home; making everything at home automatically makes things healthier because you know exactly what is going into your meal, and you also get the satisfaction of cooking with loved ones on Thanksgiving itself.

2. Portion control; often, Americans use Thanksgiving as an excuse to stuff themselves, but listen to your body and stop when you are full. Even better, go play a game of football or catch, or run a turkey trot on Thanksgiving to level out the eating and active activities of the day.

3. Enjoy! Thanksgiving only comes once a year, so enjoy what you can, and with these tips and changes, you can enjoy guilt-free and healthily!

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Posted in: Health