A full spread can be good for you when you plan carefully. To create a healthy Thanksgiving meal, it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Thanksgiving is traditionally filled with healthy foods that the Plymouth colonists might have shared with the Wampanoag native Americans. There was no cheese in a can in those days, but freshly harvested food. The wild turkey was probably venison, waterfowl, fish, lobster, shellfish, berries, fresh fruit, squash and pumpkin and none of those foods were deep fat fried.
Start with turkey and maybe some wild salmon or lobster.
Okay, I did sound like I was bashing deep fried turkey, but it’s only because everyone I know—including myself—loves the crisp turkey skin that holds most of the fat. It’s just too hard to resist. That makes it less than healthy. The meat is slightly moister, but is basically the same as roasted turkey. So if you can veer your family away from the skin, even fried turkey is okay. Add some lobster and maybe wild salmon (if you aren’t sticking strictly to the fare at the first Thanksgiving) and you have the start of a feast that promotes healthy eating. My favorite healthy stuffing has brown or wild rice or quinoa with cranberries and apples and the fragrance of garlic, onion, celery and sage weaved throughout it. It’s a gluten free alternative to white bread stuffing.
Bring on the veggies and lots of them.
This is always my favorite part of the meal. Everyone brings a dish and we often have loads of vegetables. I always make a salad and make sure that it has leaf lettuce or spinach, not just iceberg lettuce that has few nutrients. Of course, the seven layer pea salad isn’t always the lowest in calories because of the thick layer of mayonnaise, but you can solve that problem by blending 1 part of mayonnaise with one part Greek yogurt. You can also substitute a mix of romaine and spinach for the iceberg lettuce and slightly reduce the amount of cheese and bacon. Steamed veggies of all sorts, such as green beans and mushrooms, can be accented with fresh or dried herbs for extra nutrition and flavor.
Include a walk after dinner into your plans.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a beautiful landscape, the walk will be perfect just looking at the outdoors. A casual walk after eating helps food digest and gives you some exercise for the day. Planning a specific destination, such as a park, could create the perfect topper for your Thanksgiving meal. If you have many children at the meal, it’s the perfect way for them to burn off a little energy and spend quality time with adults.
- You can provide some healthy lower calorie desserts or include the old favorites. Remember pumpkin pie is a lower calorie option to a two crust fruit pie and everything goes well with Jello.
- Don’t worry, you don’t have to pass up all the goodies. You can splurge a bit and eat a slice of pie for dessert, just not half the pie.
- If you serve baked potatoes instead of mashed to save calories, serve Greek yogurt as an alternative to sour cream to save even more.
- You’ll find many lower calorie recipes on the internet that are healthy and taste so yummy that you’ll forget that they are.