It’s hard to escape the holidays without packing on a few extra pounds. Do yourself and your guests a favor by trying some lighter fare for Thanksgiving this year. I have been cooking lighter options for Thanksgiving for years, and they are just as flavorful as traditional dishes – with less fat, salt, sugar, and calories. A simple roasted turkey is not very heavy, especially if you drain the fat, so focus on keeping the appetizers, sides, and dessert light.
Get a fresh start with appetizers
It’s easy to take in a whole meal’s worth of calories by the time the appetizer course is finished. Skip the heavier fare like stuffed mushrooms and spinach dip, opting for fresh, low calorie options. Cut up vegetables like carrots, celery, radishes, green onion, cauliflower, and broccoli. Serve the fresh vegetables with a light dip like hummus or low fat ranch dressing. Baked tortilla chips and salsa are another full flavored, light appetizer option.
Fill up on soup and salad
There are plenty of seasonal, festive options for soup and salad that will fill guests up before the main meal without adding lots of calories. Make a roasted butternut squash soup or a hearty bean and vegetable soup. A fresh salad is always a great idea for a crowd looking for healthy options. Mix field greens with dried cranberries, pecans, and pumpkin seeds. Top your salad with a lighter dressing like balsamic vinaigrette.
Lighten up mashed potatoes
Mashed potatoes can be just as delicious without a ton of cream or butter. Mash your potatoes in their own cooking liquid, adding just a bit of butter or olive oil for flavor. Mix in fresh herbs like chives and parsley for an added punch of flavor. Roasted garlic also adds depth to mashed potatoes without adding many calories.
Roast some sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet on their own, and certainly don’t need all of the marshmallows, brown sugar, and butter they are topped with for the holidays. Peel and roast sweet potatoes in the oven with a bit of vegetable oil. Sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and cinnamon before serving. This dish won’t have nearly as much sugar as a sweet potato casserole and will taste just as festive.
Zingy cranberry sauce
Cranberry sauce is packed with sugar, and the organic kind can sometimes even have more sugar than the original. Make your own cranberry sauce at home by boiling cranberries with anything sweet – sugar, orange juice, honey – to taste. Add a bit of orange zest for flavor, and you won’t miss the extra sweetness.
Flavorful green beans
Green beans are a healthy choice for Thanksgiving, especially if you don’t put them in a caloric green bean casserole. Steam or boil green beans for a few minutes. Plunge your green beans in an ice bath, and then stir fry them with garlic and red pepper flakes.
Go crustless for pie
Save a few calories on dessert by cooking up a crustless pumpkin pie. The filling is the best part, and a crust can add up to 100 calories per slice. To save even more calories, serve your pie with frozen vanilla yogurt instead of ice cream.