If you’re committed to maintaining a healthy diet, a feast like Thanksgiving might stress you out. One large feast is unlikely to sabotage your health, but a big meal can lead to an unpleasant “crash” or uncomfortable bloating, or it may make it difficult to get back to your healthy eating goals. (Here are some tips to survive a diet setback.)
In fact, one study from Brown Medical School in Providence, RI, looked at the habits of people who have lost an average of 72 pounds and kept it off at least five years. One of the six habits the participants had in common was sticking to a consistent eating pattern—no cheat days. (Here are other habits of people who’ve kept the weight off, according to the study.)
If you want to plan a meal that’s a little more nutritious or lower in calories—without ditching all your seasonal faves—consider making these tweaks to your Thanksgiving recipes:
Whisk up a veggie gravy. You won’t believe how well flavor-packed veggies like onion, celery, carrot, garlic, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes blend into a luscious gravy that’s dying to be draped over your mashed potatoes. Roasting the veggies beforehand brings out their best umami flavor. You won’t miss the turkey gravy, which is high in saturated fat and is tough on cholesterol levels. Check out this recipe from Food Network Kitchen.
Potatoes + cauliflower = a “mash” made in heaven. Cooked and pureed cauliflower blends perfectly into your classic mashed potatoes, and most people probably won’t be able to tell the difference (especially once it’s doused in gravy). The benefit is that cauliflower is lower in starch and calories than potatoes. (But don’t beat yourself up if you decide to stick with the spuds: Here are the health benefits of the humble potato.)
Find new flavors for your potatoes. Speaking of potatoes … let’s talk about butter. It’s common to stir butter, heavy cream, and sour cream into mashed potatoes, but high-fat dairy can lead to elevated cholesterol (and a dish that’s higher in calories). But giving up high-fat dairy in your mashed potatoes doesn’t mean losing flavor. You’ll get *more* flavor (and fewer calories) from adding low-sodium broth, roasted garlic, or fresh herbs (like rosemary, parsley, or chives).
Stuff veggies in your stuffing. The beautiful thing about the classic Thanksgiving stuffing (errr … dressing?) is that there are hundreds of varieties and many of them include fruits and vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, artichokes, and leeks are popular additions to Thanksgiving stuffing, as are fruit like apple, cranberries, and pears. You can also add fiber by using whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Check out this mushroom and leek stuffing by Cooking Is Messy.
Don’t have control over the Thanksgiving menu? You can still have a healthier meal with these tips: