You won’t be as stuffed as the usual Thanksgiving turkey when you make some simple, healthy upgrades to your holiday meal. Quality over quantity is the name of the game. Limited choices of the very best will leave your taste buds happy and your clothes zipping up nicely. Here are a few ideas to help you serve and savor a wonderful healthy Thanksgiving feast!
Cocktails and Hors d’Oeuvres
Appetizers should be light but flavorful—just enough to whet the appetite, not drown it.
- Replace the standard cheese board with an attractive plate of tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella cheese-ball skewers. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Substitute fatty foods like fried meatballs with salmon, cucumber, and whole-grain crackers. Instead of the standard deviled eggs, chop hardboiled eggs and serve atop an earthy whole-grain bread triangle. Garnish with capers and anchovies, and you’ve raised the bar without lowering the boom!
- Shake up a cocktail prepared with a healthy antioxidant twist—a pomegranate cosmo (recipe below),
Skinny Side Dishes
The turkey may be the center of attention, but the side dishes take the credit—or should I say blame?—for most of the calories consumed at a typical Thanksgiving spread. Rather than extend your belt, try a few new sidekicks.
- Go for a fresh cranberry relish instead of a sugary sauce. There’s a simple and delicious recipe below.
- Just hearing the word stuffing is filling! This year change up your customary stuffing by adding delicious ingredients like whole-wheat bread, chopped cranberries and raisins, chicken or vegetable broth, grated lemon or orange peel, and a splash of fruit juice. Bake in a casserole dish alongside organic turkey, pork, chicken, or quail.
- The best food is often prepared with the simplest ingredients, cooked in their natural state with minimal spices to let the original flavor shine through. Rather than preparing a sweet potato casserole smothered in marshmallows, consider roasting seasonal root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, and onions. Check out my recipe below.
While pumpkin pie deserves respect as a Thanksgiving icon, it’s fun to shake up tradition. Try a frozen pie this year—kids and adults will love this lighter version (recipe below), and no one needs to let them know how easy it is. Some other tips:
- Consider serving modest portions of your annual favorites by substituting tarts or two-bite desserts.
- Cobblers and crumbles are simple, delicious, and healthy. Look for recipes that highlight seasonal fruit—like a pear crumble.
2 1/4 cups pomegranate juice
2 1/4 cups vodka
1 cup lime juice
3/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1/4 cup ginger juice (find in specialty stores or online at gingerpeople.com)
2 tablespoons bar sugar, plus more for the rims
Mix pomegranate juice, vodka, lime juice, Cointreau or Grand Marnier, ginger juice, and sugar in a large pitcher.
For each drink, fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, add 1/2 cup cosmo mix, and shake until the shaker turns frosty and cold. Dip the rim of a martini glass into water, then sugar the rim. Strain the drink into the martini glass, and garnish with a twist of lime zest.
Cranberry, Raspberry, and Ginger Relish
One 12-oz. package fresh cranberries
1/2 cup (or less if you like it tart) granulated sugar
1/2 cup crystallized minced ginger
3 cups (2 pints) fresh raspberries
Mix it up and enjoy!
My Roasted Root Vegetables
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 to 2 pounds root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled, in 1/4-inch wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh herbs (thyme or rosemary are my favorites)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Put vegetables (except garlic and lemon juice) in a bowl. Toss with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
3. Spread the veggies in a large roasting pan, without crowding the pan. Roast, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and evenly browned, 45 to 50 minutes.
4. During the last 20 minutes add garlic cloves and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie
30 small gingersnap cookies (about 7 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 pints (4 cups) frozen low-fat vanilla ice cream, softened (see Make-Ahead Tip, below)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan with cooking spray.
2. To prepare crust: Combine gingersnaps and raisins in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add oil and pulse until blended. Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.
3. Bake the crust until set, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. To prepare filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. Add ice cream and stir until blended. Spoon the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Let the pie soften slightly in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Make-Ahead Tip: Cover and freeze the pie for up to three days.