For the past few years, I’ve hosted a separate friends-only Thanksgiving dinner. Many of the people I know have families that live far away or don’t have family to see on Thanksgiving, so this offers up a great chance to see the people I care about, try out my cooking chops and sip on a delicious bottle of red.
Many of my friends are health-conscious, though. So, while they’re still going to indulge in some scrumptious after-dinner dessert, they tend to want something filling and delicious that won’t make them feel too guilty — especially during that lazy post-dinner nap. The good news is that Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a calorie fest. It can be a great excuse to find new, interesting ways of making foods you already love.
Research healthy alternatives beforehand
I try to learn a little bit about all of the foods I’m making. Are there ways to cut calories but keep flavor? Consider stuffing, for example. It’s a pretty heavy dish, and it contains tons of carbs. Try to find alternatives before the big day so you go in fully prepared. I’m trying this colorful farro stuffing this year, for example.
Add everyday items to the menu
If you’re like me, you may think of kale as a day-to-day lunch item. But kale can be an amazing treat on Thanksgiving... if it’s merged with brussel sprouts. I love Kalettes because they introduce kale into the Turkey day dinner without eliminating tradition. Plus, roasted greens are super healthy.
Go meatless... with quinoa
For many vegetarians at dinner, the not-very-creative tofu turkey (or tofurkey) isn’t so appealing. Here’s where quinoa comes in. It’s a super food, says nutritionist Fiona Hunter: “Quinoa...contains around almost twice as much protein as rice and almost three times more protein than couscous, which...helps you feel full quicker and stay feeling full for longer.” If you aren’t a meat eater, this makes a nutritious, delicious and flexible substitute. For example, I love making squash with quinoa — and plan on doing so this Thanksgiving.
Spruce up your veggies
If you’re tired of doing mashed potatoes year after year, go crazy with your greens. I own this vegetable spiralizer and I can’t swear by it enough. Not only does it make food look aesthetically appealing, it’s fun to use! You can make everything from vegetable spaghetti to sweet potato noodles. Try the Original SpiraLife Vegetable Spiralizer, which comes with recipes!
Ditch the dark meat (and the skin)
People who want a healthy option should stick to white meat, which packs less calories and is better for you overall. On top of that, the skin adds an extra 30 calories, according to Shape Magazine. So stick with white meat and swap the skin for a healthy green.
Retain your nutrients
Using a pressure cooker not only saves you time, it helps your food retain its nutrients. According to blogger Wellness Mama, using one, like this Modern Cooker Multi-Functional Electric Pressure Cooker, retains more nutrients than boiling, roasting, or steaming!
Think about alcohol ahead of time
When you think Thanksgiving, you might think eggnog, pumpkin spice martinis, or some mix of bourbon, cider and whipped cream. And while those are dreamy, each of them pack a punch when it comes to extra calories. Why not skip them in favor or other less heavy drinks? I like to make a champagne spritz with a handful of cranberries or simple dry red wine, which has less calories than a liqueur-based drink.