Have a Healthier Thanksgiving!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHCA Healthier Take on Thanksgiving Recipes!

If your email subscription habits are anything like mine, by now your inbox is flooded with a thousand emails about how to “Have a Skinnier Thanksgiving!” or “How To Avoid Packing on The Pounds This Thanksgiving!” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve pretty much had it up to here with all that.

Lets face it, Thanksgiving is about two things: food & family. And instilling fear in ourselves about food during this festive, beautiful, and fun holiday is just the kind of disordered thinking that turns food into the enemy and surrounds it with guilt and anxiety. I say, stop thinking about Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter) through the lens of weight. Instead, think of it (and all your eating for that matter) through the lens of health!

Thanksgiving is a delicious holiday that puts the focus on seasonal eating, which is a super healthy thing! Before Americana got it’s hands on it with the marshmallows, and the everything-must-be-covered-with-gobs-of-sugar mentality, Thanksgiving was actually a really healthy holiday, and you can connect with that tradition this year, and every year to come, without sacrificing the enjoyment that comes from sharing a big, delicious meal with your family!

Below are some tips on how to embrace the healthy, delicious traditional Thanksgiving dishes without the guilt, bloat, and arterial damage inflicted on yourself and your family.

Go Fancy With Your Turkey!
There is nothing inherently unhealthy about having some turkey on Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving turkey is one of the only times I eat animal protein throughout the year. But there’s turkey, and then there’s turkey. Your average supermarket turkey is loaded with antibiotics, hormones, and horrible energetic juju from the horrific conditions in which it was farmed. Trust me, that is not something you want in your body, and it’s most certainly not something you want to feed your family! Plus, once you’ve had a delicious, plump, juicy heritage, free-range, organic turkey, you’ll never want to go back! So consider it an investment in your health and the health of your loved ones, and get yourself fancy turkey! Whole Foods, your local health food store or gourmet market, or the farmer’s market are all great places to find a high quality, healthier turkey. Depending on where you live, you may need to order your turkey in advance cuz those puppies are in high demand.

In terms of turkey preparation, I’m a big fan of brining, which is the easiest way to get a ridiculously moist, tender turkey without needing to saturate the whole thing in butter. Click here for super easy directions on how to brine! When you’re preparing your turkey, sticking some pats of herbed butter under the skin is fine, but use olive oil to rub on the outside of the turkey before roasting. This way, you’re getting a little less fat without sacrificing flavor.

Let The Yams Speak for Themselves!
Yams and sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and delicious, so there is absolutely no need to ruin them with added sugar or heaven forbid, marshmallows. If you want to sweeten them up a bit, use some maple syrup or sparingly, and season them with cinnamon and nutmeg, which bring out there natural sweetness. And you don’t need tons of cream and butter to make them delicious! All that fat and dairy turns a healthy, delicious food into a bloating, fatty, mess. If you want to add a little creaminess to your yams, add some coconut milk or cream or Earth Balance! Check out my delicious mashed yam recipe, and other great, healthy Thanksgiving recipes in A Healthier Take On Thanksgiving Recipes.

Skip the Bacon!
Turkey is the main event at Thanksgiving, so there’s no reason to add more fatty, artery clogging meat to your Brussels sprouts, green beans, or other sides. Again, let these delicious veggies speak for themselves, instead of masking their awesome flavor with more meat. Eating tons of healthy vegetable sides is the way to offset the effects of the turkey and desserts on your body. So embrace them and let them do their jobs! If you want to add a little smokiness to your veggies, roasted walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts are great. You can also add a dash of liquid smoke, which is a super fun cooking condiment! The main idea with healthy, delicious Thanksgiving dinners is to showcase yummy seasonal produce.. So less is more! Less butter, cream and sugar equals more focus on the delicious healthy food! And if you can’t live without, opt for olive oil or Earth Balance, coconut or nut milk, and agave or real maple syrup as healthier substitutes. Check out my delicious maple roasted brussels sprouts recipe, and other great, healthy Thanksgiving recipes in A Healthier Take On Thanksgiving Recipes.

DON’T Save Room for Dessert!
The worst thing you can do for your body is to finish off a big, fattier-than-usual meal with a ton of sugary, fatty desserts. That just equals more artery clogging, blood sugar spiking badness (not to mention more cellulite and belly fat), which I’m sure won’t be making your Thanksgiving gratitude list.

So forget that terrible saying “save room for dessert!” Instead, fill up on the good stuff during dinner, the seasonal sides, salad, and a small amount of turkey.

If you’re in charge of dessert, make healthier versions of your family favorites by using agave or stevia instead of sugar, and lighter flours like rice or spelt flour instead of processed white flour (major bad guy!!). Your family won’t know the difference, and you can rest easy knowing that you’re not increasing everyone’s risk of Type II Diabetes down the road. You think I’m kidding? I’m not. Exposing your kids to consistently elevated blood sugar levels, even just from Halloween through Christmas, increases their insulin resistance and risk of obesity, diabetes, and hormonal imbalance down the road. How’s that for motivation?

So before you finish off your big Thanksgiving dinner with two slices of pecan pie, think about what you’re doing to your poor body, and what you’re exposing your loved ones to. Go ahead and sample a bit of those Thanksgiving pies, but if you must have more than a few bites of dessert, focus on fruit!

Check out some healthier Thanksgiving dessert recipes:
Dairy-free Pumpkin Pie
Healthier Pecan Pie
Healthier Apple Pie

Also: Check out my article, 5 Ways to Sneak in Exercise over Thanksgiving!

Have a happy, happy Thanksgiving full of gratitude, joy, and healthy, delicious food!

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