5 Simple and Easy Thanksgiving Recipe Swaps and More

Make these Simple Ingredient Swaps For a Healthier Thanksgiving

Save calories, sugar and fat without sacrificing flavor

Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings and eat some of our favorite foods. While there’s nothing wrong with indulging, there are some simple swaps you can make to save calories, reduce sugar, and cut fat without sacrificing flavor. Make a few of these easy Thanksgiving recipe swaps, and you’ll be satisfied without being stuffed!

Start out Light

Before the big meal, serve some fresh and healthy appetizers. A lovely raw veggie platter is crunchy and not too filling. Shrimp cocktail is also a nice light option. Cherry tomatoes stuffed with avocado are light and cheerful.

Turkey Tune-Up

Start your turkey tune-up with preparation. Your turkey doesn’t need to be rubbed inside and out with butter – instead, season it with fresh herbs and olive oil. My favorites are chopped thyme, sage, and rosemary. Remember, no matter how you season your turkey, it should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees for safety.

At the table, go for white meat over the dark. And if you can do it, skip the skin! You’ll save 50 calories and 2 grams of fat per 3 oz serving. If you are not feeding a crowd, consider buying just a breast of turkey for the feast.

Get Un-Dressed: Stuffing Light

There are many ways to turn up the nutrition dial with this one.

  • Try using whole grain bread crumbs for your stuffing. Whole grains contain more fiber than their white bread counterpart.
  • If using a store-bought chicken or vegetable broth in your stuffing recipe, opt for a low-sodium variety.
  • If your recipe calls for butter, cut it in half – you won’t notice the difference. You can save up to 88 calories and 11 grams of fat per cup!
  • Instead of using just bread, add some vegetables and mushrooms – shiitake mushrooms are terrific. Throw in some heart healthy walnuts while you are at it.
  • Gluten free? There are gluten free bread crumb options at most grocery stores these days. Or look for non-bread-based dressings like quinoa or wild-rice dressings. Take it even further and opt for a roasted cauliflower dressing.

And to answer that age-old debate,

“If you put it in the bird, is it stuffing?”

If you cook it in a separate pan, it's dressing, and if it’s cooked inside the bird, it is stuffing. When you make stuffing, be sure that it comes to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Stuffing stays moister in the bird as it absorbs some of the fat. If you decide to cook it separately, have some turkey broth on hand to add if it starts to dry out as it cooks.

Healthier holiday meals begin with easy Thanksgiving recipe swaps

Side Swaps

Potato Renovation

Mashed potatoes are everyone’s favorite – and they are super easy to lighten up without impacting their lusciousness.

  • Many potato recipes call for heavy cream. For a lighter take, try a combination of whole and low fat (1%) milk. Even using half-and-half will save you more than 50% of the calories over using heavy cream.
  • If your recipe calls for sour cream, swap it for Greek yogurt – you’ll lose the fat and even add some protein
  • Want to take it a step further? Substitute up to half of your potatoes with cooked cauliflower.

Scalloped potatoes are my very favorite, and in addition to heavy cream also call for cheese. The good news is a little goes a long way.

  • Instead of drowning your potatoes, use about 1-2 tablespoons per person. Choose Gruyere, Swiss, or Parmesan - since these have a strong flavor profile, a sprinkle goes a long way.
  • Does your recipe call for bacon? Substitute turkey bacon or Canadian bacon or skip it all together.

Less Sugar and More Spice (is nice)

Instead of sugary glazed carrots – try something a little different. Check out this recipe for Spicy Harissa Roasted Carrots.

Butter and sugar are often served with a side of yams!

  • Like many of the other recipes, you can reduce by half the amount of butter in your mashed yams.
  • Try mashing them with orange juice and just a little butter.
  • Skip the marshmallow topping - instead, candy some pecans (or buy them) and sprinkle on top. Bonus points if they are sweet and spicy!
  • Take it a step further and serve baked sweet potatoes topped with a little butter and your spicy pecans.

You can save up to 420 calories, 66 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fat over traditional marshmallow topped sweet potatoes.

Keep your green beans green

Lighten up Aunt Carol’s traditional green bean casserole – you know, the one with the can of condensed mushroom soup!

  • Swap out the sodium-heavy canned soup for a rich, chunky, homemade mushroom sauce.
  • Or you can keep it simple by simply sauteing the green beans in a little butter and adding slivered almonds and some fried onions.

Cranberry Conversion

Don’t forget the cranberries! First, start with fresh cranberries so you can control the amount of sugar you add.

  • Substitute orange juice for half the water when cooking, and add plenty of your favorite fall spices – cinnamon and nutmeg are lovely.
  • If you like things tart, opt for a cranberry relish.

Don’t desert dessert

You can reduce the amount of sugar in pies, and they will still be delicious.

  • Or you can keep it simple by simply sauteing the green beans in a little butter and adding slivered almonds and some fried onions.
  • Or you can keep it simple by simply sauteing the green beans in a little butter and adding slivered almonds and some fried onions.
  • Or you can keep it simple by simply sauteing the green beans in a little butter and adding slivered almonds and some fried onions.

People like to sample all the deserts, so you can also cut pies and deserts into smaller pieces.

When choosing between pecan and pumpkin pie, go with the pumpkin. Pumpkin pie contains fiber and vitamin A. You’ll save up to 541 calories, 27 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of fat.

Instead of apple pie, think about baking apples with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar – served with whipped cream or ice cream. You won’t even miss the crust!

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Simple Activity Swaps For a Healthier Thanksgiving

Think about your portions

Portion control is also important. Take smaller servings of everything you really want, eat slowly, and savor each bite. It isn’t about how much food you eat, it‘s about how much you enjoy the food. This can help lighten up a heavy meal without sacrificing taste or wrecking your diet.

Swap a walk for the recliner

Create a family tradition of movement! Before or after eating on Thanksgiving, get out and move. Look for a local 5K, hike a trail, walk around the block (you might even spy some Christmas decorations)! Bring back tag football! Buy some funny hats to wear, order some medals, and make it a blast. Whatever it is - just move a little!

Fun family activities and easy thanksgiving recipe swaps to stay healthier over the holidays

With a few of these easy Thanksgiving recipe swaps you can lighten up your Thanksgiving without sacrificing taste! Remember Thanksgiving is not just about the delicious bounty of food. It’s a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends. Make spending quality time with your loved ones the main event.

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Coach Karen S Holden helps busy professional women figure out how to prioritize their health while keeping all the plates spinning. She helps women take small imperfectly consistent steps that lead to big change. If your life is overloaded and overbooked, don’t despair – there is a solution.

Find other articles written by Karen on her coach profile. Her insights can help you navigate your journey to making your health as much of a priority as your career – without having to neglect either one!