SWIFT SWAPS: Tips & Recipes for a Healthier Thanksgiving
For many people, Thanksgiving is the official kick-off of the month-long over-eating season that ends on New Years Day, usually with a slight headache and a belly full of regret. My advice? This year change your approach and create a plan to help you triumph over those holiday spreads, starting with your Thanksgiving table. Here are a few “Swift Swaps” and tips to get you started on a healthier holiday meal path:
1) Add the rainbow!
The traditional Thanksgiving meal can be a very brown affair (think gravy, stuffing, turkey, etc), but it doesn’t have to be. It’s time to add the rainbow to Thanksgiving, just as you would an everyday meal. Try adding colorful veggies (raw or cooked) to the meal to enhance it with more color and nutrients. To do so, include a few of the following items to your Thanksgiving menu: cherry tomatoes, roasted red pepper slices, caramelized purple onions, steamed spinach, broccoli florets, butternut squash, mashed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce.
2) Modify your mashies.
A heaping helping of white potatoes is a carb-bomb that pumps up blood sugar – and chances are nobody at the Thanksgiving table needs that! To mitigate problem, modify your mashies. Trade white potatoes for sweet, or try a white and sweet potato combo, mashed together. If your mashies just have to be white, then mash white potatoes together with cauliflower to add nutrients and reduce carbs. Or, take it a step further and try an all cauliflower mash, dressed up with flavorful herbs and spices such as parsley, dill or curry.
3) Re-think gravy.
Gravy has a job – to add moisture and creamy texture to the meal. Trouble is, it can also pour on lots of extra fat, salt, and calories, so consider switching to a lighter, gluten and dairy-free or veggie version. Trade traditional turkey gravy made from drippings for an all-veggie version, made with healthier combinations of pureed veggies like cauliflower, garlic, onions and mushrooms. Another bonus? You can make veggie gravies ahead so there’s one less thing to do on Turkey Day!
4) Switch out the sodium.
Trade old-school iodized table salt for a tasty herb & spice blend! You can make your own or buy ready-made ones from companies such as The Spice Hunter, Frontier or Simply Organic. If your gang insists on salt, set out a tiny dish of mineral-rich pink Himalayan salt on the table, but remind the uninitiated that a little goes a long way, so use it with a very light touch
Translate these tips to the table with my healthy, perfect-for-Thanksgiving “Swift Swap” recipe suggestions:
- …instead of poultry gravy, try using Lunchbox.com’s creamy, vegan mushroom soup as a healthier gravy alternative that everyone can enjoy
- Of if you prefer a gluten and dairy free gravy with a touch of poultry drippings, try this one from MyFoodMyHealth.com:
Gluten and Dairy Free Gravy
Carnivores and vegetarians alike will love this one! If you’re not a vegetarian but lactose intolerant, try using clarified butter for best flavor results. If you are completely avoiding dairy, either olive oil or coconut oil will work or any good quality nut oil. Remember to keep the heat gentle if you decide on the olive oil. Try to use some drippings from the pan for the best flavor possible.
2 1/2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee), olive oil or coconut oil or even good quality nut oil.
2 1/2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
1 1/2 cups skimmed strained pan juices plus an excellent chicken or veg stock
Salt and pepper
In a small pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sweet rice flour and whisk until a smooth paste forms. This should be a nice tan color and take approximately 3-5 minutes.
In a slow steady stream, whisk in the pan juices and stock. Continue to whisk until gravy has thickened and begins to bubble. Add more stock if gravy becomes too thick.
- …instead of the same old mashed potatoes, try this potato-free, cauliflower version by MyFoodMyHealth.com chef Judith Friedman:
Cauliflower-Roasted Garlic Mash
This recipe will remind you of the best mashed potatoes you've ever eaten, minus the heaviness. The roasted garlic can be made a few days in advance, which makes the dish come together quickly.
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chives or scallions, finely minced
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Place garlic cloves on a piece of aluminum foil; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Wrap the aluminum foil tightly to make a little pouch so no air escapes and roast for about 40 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a 6-quart pot of water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and the florettes. Boil until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes. (A paring knife should be able to pierce the cauliflower.) Drain the water and transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Cut off the tips of the garlic cloves and squeeze the roasted garlic into the food processor. Add the butter or olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Puree until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more butter/oil or salt and pepper as you like. Transfer to a bowl and stir in chives or scallions. Serve hot.
- …instead of traditional table salt, treat your guests to a special spice blend, like the one featured in my book The Swift Diet. I call it “My Personal Chef ’s Blend.” Pick five herbs that appeal to you and make your own blend. Place in a small glass bottle to sprinkle on your food as desired.
For more ideas and nutritional guidance throughout the season and beyond, check out my favorite healthy living apps post, App-solutely Fabulous: 6 Fave Nutrition Apps for Healthy Eating Newbies.