Minor Tweaks to Make Your Thanksgiving Recipes a Little Healthier


Thanksgiving is, hands down, the most wonderful holiday of the year. You get to spend time with the people you love the most (or suffer with the people you tolerate to the best of your abilities) and you get to eat all day long. What could be better than getting to pour a glass of wine at noon without any questionable stares, hang out with your extended family, not have to hear your kids whining about boredom for hours because they’re in a house filled with cousins and friends, and knowing that you get to sleep in the following day? Nothing; that’s what’s better than Thanksgiving.

However, there is one little tiny downfall to this particular holiday (and no, we aren’t talking about the lines in the supermarket the entire week before Thanksgiving – okay, so there are two little downfalls to this holiday). You eat so much you feel bloated, horrible and disgusting for the rest of the day (read: weekend). Thanksgiving is delicious, but it’s not exactly healthy. Thanksgiving recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation are filled with fats and calories and other things that make you want to cry.

So, to help you make your Thanksgiving recipes just a bit healthier, we’ve come up with some simple tips, tricks and changes you can make to minimize the lack of nutritional value and add a bit of good health to your dinner. And the best part is that a lot of these Thanksgiving recipe changes are so minor that the rest of the family won’t even notice (read: Complain that you’re changing things on them).

Skip the Fryer

Not only are turkey fryers about as dangerous as they come (does anyone see all the house fires on the news this time of year thanks to those contraptions?), they’re not good for you. If you’re going to have turkey for Thanksgiving – and who doesn’t? – you can’t just skip the cooking portion. Turkey is healthy, but it’s a lot healthier when you bake it than it is when you fry it. Sure, fried turkey is delicious, but it’s pretty bad for you and the home in which you live.

Skip Canned Veggies

Using fresh vegetables is a far better solution to Thanksgiving dinner than canned. They’re healthier, filled with far fewer preservatives (you know, those things that keep them fresh in that can for months on end), and just overall better for you. Make that green bean casserole with fresh green beans. Additionally, try not to use too much salt or butter when making these dishes. And while you’re at it, let’s go ahead and do the veggie cooking in something like olive oil because it’s far healthier – and baked and steamed veggies are always the best.

Alter the Gravy

So many people use so much butter to make all that gravy, and it’s so good. This year, however, try this trick. Substitute half of the butter in your gravy recipe for olive or canola oil. It’s a bit healthier and a lot less fattening and filled with calories. Additionally, you can even go a step further and use chicken stock to make the base for your gravy in place of the juice from your turkey – which is probably also loaded with butter. It’s a great and tasty solution to your unhealthy gravy. That’s not to say that this gravy is exactly healthy, but it’s far healthier and a much better recipe for a healthier Thanksgiving gravy.

Make Your Own Stuffing

Here is a Thanksgiving recipe just about everyone can get onboard with. How many people here make their stuffing from a box with a famous name on top? (Don’t look at me, we eat at my parents’ house every year and I’m not allowed to cook – for good reason).  This year, make your stuffing a little bit healthier by making it yourself. It’s so easy, and you can make it so good for you by using fresh ingredients and the bread of your choice. The boxed stuff is filled with, well, crap. It’s not good for you, and it’s nowhere near as good as homemade stuffing that someone else makes (may we suggest a grandmother? They have the best stuffing recipes).

Portion Control

This is the sad one, but it’s going to help you stay a bit trimmer during the holidays. If you actually stop at one serving, you might just feel good at the end of the day. It’s so hard, I know. Thanksgiving comes once a year, which means you only get this meal once a year. You have to do it up, right? In my opinion, this is the one night of the year to go ahead and throw all dieting, rules and modesty out the window and pig out like a massive glutton.

But some people have more self-control than I, so they like to do something called, “eat like a human being and not a pig,” and that’s fine – for those people. If you’re looking to eat healthier on Thanksgiving, use a smaller plate. Smaller plates will force you to have smaller helpings, and seeing so much food on one plate is certainly going to cause your mind to think you’re eating so much food when you’re really not. It’s all an optical illusion, but it works.


Skip it – who has room for dessert when there is still turkey to eat?

Fine, okay, dessert lovers; don’t skip your dessert. Just eat it in a healthier manner. Make your own apple pie instead of making one from scratch. Try skipping the top crust and just making crust for the bottom since this will minimize the amount of unhealthy crust you’re eating, but still give you some to enjoy. Also, skip the toppings. Or use frozen vanilla yogurt instead of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Additionally, make sure you don’t eat a massive piece. Keep it small and modest, and you’ll be forever grateful that you’ve done so when you can fit into your pants at the end of the day.

***If you plan on spending 24 hours shopping on Black Friday, you can account for the fact that you’ll be doing a lot of standing and fast walking to beat others to that last sale item, so you can feel less guilty eating dinner knowing how many calories you’ll burn the following day.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images


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