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Thanksgiving Dishes: Traditional & Healthier Alternatives

Nov 21, 2013 12:02AM ● By Erin Frisch

Thanksgiving is a hard-to-beat holiday. It’s all about families, fellowship, food, and fun. Oh, and football, of course! Just thinking about the traditional dinner can conjure memories of wonderful aromas and pies almost too pretty to eat. While every family has its own favorite dishes, it’s all about gathering together with loved ones. This might be your immediate family or extended family, or a group of special friends as close as family. While this special day is centered on togetherness and thankfulness, the focus is also on the food!

Why Healthy Alternatives?

Studies have told us the bad news—the average person gains about five pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nobody plans on gaining those extra pounds, but there’s just so much wonderful food at hand on these fun holidays. It’s important to remember that many of these traditional dishes aren’t very good for us—or our waistlines. And while Thanksgiving comes but once a year, it’s followed in rapid succession by Christmas and New Year’s! Is this the year to transform those dishes that everyone around the table looks forward to on Thanksgiving Day? You can satisfy their palates with traditional but healthful alternatives. And maybe save everyone the work of struggling to lose added pounds come January.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Traditional & Healthful!

• Consider sodium levels. Many favorite turkey-day dishes call for salt, and a lot of it! A little advance planning can cut the sodium. For instance, if you are making a green bean casserole that calls for Cream of Mushroom soup, choose the low-sodium version. Your casserole will taste the same, but it will be healthier. And don’t add the called-for amounts of salt in recipes. Generally, you can halve the amounts. Your guests can add more at the table if they want to; let’s face it—many of us have the bad habit of salting our food before we have even tasted it.

• Choose healthy appetizers. Diners are waiting for the star of the day—turkey and stuffing with all the fixins’! Opt for light appetizers to munch on while the dinner is cooking. Consider a fresh fruit tray or crudités, but nix the dips and spreads.

• Let the turkey be the star. Many Thanksgiving side dishes could be considered main dishes in any other meal. The turkey, or tofurkey if you go the vegetarian route, supplies adequate protein on its own. Skip the sausage stuffing, or if you must have it, cut the amount of sausage your recipe calls for in half.

• Save room for pie, but if you’re baking, cut the called-for amounts of sugar by a third, and consider healthier alternatives like pumpkin, loaded with beta carotene, instead of pecan, loaded with sugar. And pass the frozen yogurt to top it off!

Whether you follow these tips or not, don’t stress out about it. Enjoy your loved ones and savor the day. If you opt to serve healthier dishes, that’s just an added bonus.

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