First things first: we aren't suggesting you diet on Thanksgiving. Enjoy yourself and the rewards of a meal that takes hours to prepare. But when you consider how easy it is eat your way well over the 2,000-calorie mark on dinner alone, it doesn't hurt to make a few small changes in your cooking. And we're not talking changes that involve dry, skinless turkey breast or a dessert the size of a thimble. These six changes will shave hundreds of calories off your Thanksgiving meal without skimping on taste.
Photo: Nicole Perry
1. Be One With Brine
No need for a fat-laden butter rub to impart flavor and moistness! Instead opt to brine or smoke your bird. If you're short on time, try this easy herb-roasted solution that uses heart-healthy olive oil.
2. Choose Spuds Wisely
Forget russets! Make your mashers with yukon gold and yellow finn potatoes instead. These smaller varieties are naturally creamy and sweet, and their skins taste like butter. This means you can cut down on the amount of butter and cream you would normally add, and keeping the skins ups fiber content. Or you can skip white potatoes altogether using this recipe for a savory sweet potato mash — talk about antioxidant overload!
3. Say No to Marshmallow Fluff
You can still get all the nostalgia of a sweet potato casserole minus the sugar and fat. Skip the sugary marshmallow topping, and put the focus on sweet and savory spices, like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon like you'll find in this recipe for a sweet potato-pecan casserole. A touch of brown sugar or maple syrup is all it takes to bring out the veggie's natural sweetness.
4. Do You Really Need Cream of Mushroom?
We get it, green bean casserole with condensed soup is a Thanksgiving staple, but our guess is that your family will be OK if you skip it this year. Instead of veggies drowning in cream, butter, and cheese, opt for simpler recipes that highlight the natural flavors of the produce. If you're thinking "how boring!," there are a lot of side dishes that are both tasty and creative. We're huge fans of this fresh green bean casserole and also balsamic brussels sprouts.
5. It's All Gravy, Baby!
You gotta have gravy on the table; mashed potatoes and turkey just wouldn't be the same. But your gravy doesn't have to be dripping in saturated fat. One of the easiest ways to make gravy healthier is by skimming off the fat: pour pan juices into a container and place in the freezer. Once the fat has risen to the top, skim it off and discard. What's left is the perfect base for gravy! Instead of adding loads of cream or butter to your gravy recipe, use chicken stock and herbs. You'll find that you're still left with a rich sauce that will make any turkey proud.
6. Less Is More
It's good to have options, but a Thanksgiving spread doesn't have to rival an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet. Carbs are always a calorie-dense option and fill you up fast; skip the bread basket, and just focus on the stuffing and mashed potatoes. Instead of offering five pies, ice cream, and cake, choose one or two desserts to serve. All the veggies you serve don't have to be rich dishes — it's amazing how welcome a fresh salad is on Thanksgiving. Focus on the staples, and you'll find that everyone will still walk away satisfied and full. No one — including yourself — will miss what's not there!