Healthy Twists on Classic Thanksgiving Recipes

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving has a bit of a reputation. It's a time for gathering with your friends and family and to reflect on the things you have in your life to feel thankful for. It's also usually a time of over-indulgence, which can lead to feelings of remorse the next day, especially when you look at all the leftovers.   Traditional Thanksgiving dishes like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and gravy aren't going to appear on any healthy food lists. If you're looking to lighten things up this year, try preparing a few gluten-free or vegan options that are lower-calorie and reduced-fat, but not reduced flavor.

Healthy Potato Gratin  

Mashed potatoes might be a popular Thanksgiving pick, but with ample amounts of butter and cream mixed in, they're not exactly the healthiest option. Trade good old mashed potatoes for a dairy-free, but still decadent potato gratin this holiday.  Consisting of thinly sliced potatoes layered on top of each other, the gratin looks as good as it tastes. The original recipe calls for chicken broth, but you can use vegetable broth instead to make it vegetarian or vegan. 

 

Gluten-Free Grain Stuffing 

Stuffing is a must-have on some Thanksgiving tables, but traditional stuffing is basically flavored cubes of bread. You can add some fiber and protein to your holiday stuffing by making a version that uses quinoa and rice as the base. Not only is the quinoa/rice stuffing more nutritious, it's also gluten-free, making it a great option for people who have to avoid gluten for whatever reason.

Mashed Winter Squash 

Missing mashed potatoes but want to do without the carbs and cream? Try serving mashed winter squash instead. The squash is roasted until tender, then mixed with spices such as coriander and turmeric. It's not exactly traditional, but it is vegan. As a bonus, you roast the squash in halves, so you don't have to spend forever cutting it into cubes.

 

A Lighter Take on Green Bean Casserole 

Green bean casserole is another classic Thanksgiving dish that's not exactly the healthiest. Green beans are tossed with condensed mushroom soup and topped with crunchy fried onions. This year skip the casserole and give green beans a chance to shine on their own. Sauté the green beans in olive oil or butter (if you're not vegan), then simmer them in broth until they're tender. You can use chicken stock or vegetable broth when simmering the beans. To brighten the beans up, toss them with a bit of lemon zest before serving.

Roasted Vegetable Galette

Vegetarians and vegans can feel a little left out when celebrating a holiday that revolves around eating a roasted bird. A bird doesn't have to be the focal point of your Thanksgiving feast, though. If you're serving a table of vegetarians, prepare a roasted vegetable galette as the main course.  The great thing about a vegetable galette is that it's infinitely customizable. You can make it vegan or vegetarian, you can use a gluten-free crust or a wheat-flour crust, and you can mix and match vegetables to your heart's content.    

Whole Roasted Cauliflower  

The humble cauliflower sure has come a long way. Cauliflower is now used in place of potatoes, rice, pizza crusts, you name it. So, it's not much of a surprise that cauliflower could be a contender when it comes to ending turkey's dominance on Thanksgiving.  The trick is to roast a head of cauliflower whole, then serve it on a platter, much like you would a full roasted bird. There are a few variations on roasted cauliflower out there. This one features pickled pearl onions and kalamata olives and is drizzled with a pistachio-tahini sauce.

Ditch the Pie for an Apple Crisp 

And now, for the most important part of any Thanksgiving meal: dessert. Classic Thanksgiving pies tend to be high in sugar, fat, and gluten. You can make things a bit lighter by trading in an apple pie for a vegan and gluten-free apple cranberry crumble. Serve it warm with a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream. 

Vegan Pumpkin Pie 

 Who knew pumpkin pie could be both vegan and gluten-free? The recipe uses a gluten-free flour blend to make the pie crust, so you don't have to run around looking for specific flours. It also trades in traditional dairy for almond milk. Your vegan guests will be thrilled to be able to enjoy pumpkin pie again while your non-vegan guests won't know the difference.  

A healthy Thanksgiving meal is an excellent way to kick-off the holiday season. Even if you skip the bird this year, you're not likely to miss it! 

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Sources:  

1. "Why Are the Holidays So Stressful?," US News and World Report, 

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2018-12-07/why-are-the-holidays-so-stressful 

2. "Why You May Overspend on the Holidays and How to Stop," NerdWallet, 

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/overspending-holiday-shopping/  

3. "A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain," New England Journal of Medicine, 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336296/ 

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