Thanksgiving is fast approaching and although this time of the year is all about indulging in the comfort food that tastes so good, you're still trying to be healthy and maintain your current weight. Most of our favorite Thanksgiving side dishes are filled with sugars and fat, which isn't exactly ideal for staying healthy. Here are five traditional Thanksgiving side dishes that can be made healthy and still taste delicious.
What would Thanksgiving be without cranberry sauce? Everyone has their own favorites, but a good number of people opt for the easiest version of cranberry sauce which comes from a can. The canned cranberry sauce is made of cranberries and sugar or corn syrup. Instead of filling yourself with sugar during dinner, save it for dessert and try making a fresh cranberry chutney or spread. By making a fresh cranberry sauce, you'll cut out almost all of the sugar and lighten up this Thanksgiving favorite.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest vegetables available. It's a shame that we use sweet potatoes in combination with hefty amounts of brown sugar and marshmallows to create the traditional sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving. This year, say goodbye to the marshmallows and embrace the sweetness of the sweet potatoes in their raw form. Bake them, mash them or turn them into fries. If you're dead set on a sweet potato casserole, add cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to the sweet potatoes and top with pecans for a crunch. This new take on sweet potato casserole will save you tons of calories and you won't have to sacrifice the taste!
Green Bean Casserole
Generally made with a can of cream of something soup and topped with fried onions, this casserole is the epitome of a vegetable dish gone wrong. Since Thanksgiving is a day for indulging, why waste it on a vegetable that's already delicious in its simplicity? Toss the green beans in a light olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and orange zest. This lightened up green bean side will be sure to leave people asking for seconds and thanking you for not masking the deliciousness of fresh green beans with creamy processed soup.
Stuffing can be done healthy if you have the right ingredients. Boxed stuffing is the easiest route and you can certainly jazz it up by adding plenty of vegetables such as onion and celery for flavor and cutting back on the butter. But if you've decided to make your own stuffing, you can still follow some simple steps to healthify your stuffing. Start off by incorporating as many vegetables as you can and try to find healthy sausage such as natural chicken without nitrates. For the bread, look for whole wheat stuffing bread or consider doing a half-white, half-whole wheat combination. Cornbread stuffing is also a great alternative that can provide additional health benefits since stoneground corn is a whole grain.
Traditional mashed potatoes are skinless and made with butter and heavy cream. This Thanksgiving, use red potatoes and keep the skins on for a little fiber and extra micronutrients. Use the water you boiled the potatoes in to add creaminess and use 1 or 2 percent milk rather than heavy cream. Only use a small amount of butter and add some fresh pepper and salt to taste. For a new potato tradition, instead of mashed potatoes you can dice the potatoes and toss them in olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and roast them until golden brown.
Don't overindulge this Thanksgiving. With these healthified versions of your favorite side dishes, you'll be saving hundreds of calories and can still enjoy the flavors. Just remember that on a day full of food, try to ration your portions and eat everything in moderation. Whether your set up is buffet style, multiple courses or everything at once, keep in mind that your stomach is smaller than your eyes. Eat slowly and give your stomach time to catch up with your brain, this way you can eat until you're satisfied, not until your stuffed.
Becky Karn is a freelance writer and health advocate. After researching many degree programs including masters health administration online, she would like to go back to school and someday educate the public in making healthy choices.