14 Better-For-You Thanksgiving Substitutions — Plus 10 Bonus Tips for Managing Your Weight This Holiday
The holidays are just around the corner, and to kick off the next few months of festivities, parties and indulgence, we find ourselves on the threshold of Thanksgiving. This is a difficult time for many of us. We’ve restricted ourselves throughout the summer in order to squeeze into bathing suits and shorts alike, but now the baggy sweaters and loose jeans give us a little wiggle room.
In the spirit of saying cheers to the holidays — instead of dreading them — here is a roundup of some of the best traditional Thanksgiving food swaps that will keep you on track this season without denying your taste buds.
In and of itself, turkey isn’t necessarily the problem, but it can be high in additives, depending on how it’s prepared. For those steering clear of meat or added sodium and sugar this holiday, try:
- Harvest Stuffed Acorn Squash — With all that goodness jammed into one little squash, you might also pass on many of your traditional Thanksgiving trimmings.
- Thanksgiving Lentil Loaf — From our very own Chef Nelda of ARIIX Kitchen, this meatless dish is brimming with veggies and herbs. Imagine how wonderful your kitchen will smell preparing this!
Store-bought or even homemade stuffing is high in calories, carbs and sodium. It’s also one of the most over-processed Thanksgiving staples you’ll find. Try instead:
- Cauliflower Stuffing — We’re loving this whole-food take on the traditional favorite.Grain-Free Homestyle Stuffing — This stuffing looks delicious, even for those not avoiding grains.
- Wild Rice and Quinoa Stuffing — This jackpot recipe is a clever way to get more greens into your Thanksgiving feast.
If you’re like basically everyone else who celebrates Thanksgiving, you’re obsessed with mashed potatoes. It’s one of the hardest side dishes to say goodbye to. But with tons of starch and loaded with fattening butter and gravy, that pile of potatoes is sure to ruin your trim waistline. Try instead:
- Mashed Cauliflower with Mushroom Gravy — We could eat this all year long!
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes — With less starch and more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes are a great swap for regular potatoes. You can do anything with them, from gratins to loaded and baked.
Why cut into a mass of unidentifiable, can-shaped, purple “cranberry” sauce on Thanksgiving when you can enjoy a tart, healthy, whole-food option instead? Check out these unique takes on the classic below:
- Persimmon Cranberry Sauce — Sweetened with honey, this tart dish is much better than store-bought alternatives and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
- Paleo Cranberry Sauce — Keep it simple (and healthy!) this Thanksgiving with this easy, three-ingredient recipe.
While many of us grew up with Mom throwing cans of condensed soups and frozen vegetables into a baking dish and calling it a day, we think it’s high time for a casserole facelift. And no time is better for experimenting than Thanksgiving. Here are a few recipes we have our eyes on:
- Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa — All we can say is, “Yes, please!” Pro tip: make enough for seconds!
- Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts — Skip the canned green bean casserole — it’s so cliché — and opt instead for another kind of green: Brussels sprouts! New tradish, anyone?
- Zucchini, Eggplant, Tomato Gratin — In festive red, white and green, you might love this one so much, you make it for the upcoming Christmas parties, too!
There is nothing more classic than pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dessert, but may we suggest making pumpkin the star of the show in a slightly healthier fashion this year? Check out these delicious twists on an old favorite:
- Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free Pumpkin Pie — The wheel was definitely reinvented with this one, but with whole-food, guiltless ingredients, we’d give it a try!
- Crunchy Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas — How about ending your Thanksgiving meal on a crunchy note?
- Homemade Pumpkin Coconut Milk Ice Cream — Whoever said ice cream isn’t for Thanksgiving never tried this recipe!
And now for some quick bonus tips!
1. Most wasted calories come from beverages around the holidays, so choose your drinks wisely.
- Make water more enticing by infusing it with festive berries, cucumbers or lemon wedges.
- Skip soda and if you need a little bubbly, grab a carbonated water instead.
- Pace yourself, aiming to never feel “full.”
- If you’re still hungry or are tempted to go back for seconds, drink an entire 8oz glass of water first.
- Skip anything white — potatoes, breads, etc. Eat the rainbow instead.
- Your first time through the line, choose just a little spoonful of the healthiest dishes. You can always go back for more.
- Know your greatest weakness, find a healthier alternative, and volunteer to bring that dish.
- Don’t dine out. Homemade is always healthier, even without these substitutions.
- Enjoy. Don’t deny yourself so much that you miss out on the magic of the season.