SWIFT SWAPS: More Timely Tips & Recipes for a Healthier Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. Don’t you just love Thanksgiving’s aromas and tastes – and of course the parade coverage! It’s such a wonderful day to gather with loved ones to share and give thanks for all of life’s gifts, one of the most important being good health. As a nutritionist, I know and understand the healing and health enhancing power of food, so on Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to enjoy the foods and the day in healthy ways. Here are a few ideas on how to do it:
1) Eat mindfully.
With all the wonderful Thanksgiving foods on offer, it’s easy to get a little carried away and over-indulge, particularly if you’re not paying attention. For those who tend to lose track of how much they’re eating, try eating mindfully to help you focus on the task at hand. Eating mindfully puts you in touch with slower eating, which is good for digestion and appetite control (those satiety hormones have time to kick in), and with the food itself. Here’s how to do it: Take three relaxing breaths. Engage your senses: Think about your food. Eyes (look at your food) Nose (take in the aromas) Mouth (chew your food thoroughly) Rest your hands in your lap every few bites, breathe again and repeat.

2) Unstuff your stuffing.
Stuffing is one of those things that everyone feels they must have on the big day, but if gluten is a problem or you are trying to keep your weight in check, traditional stuffing is in the no-fly zone. My advice? Build a better stuffing! Skip the bread-based carb-bombs and try whipping up quinoa stuffing or wild rice with lots of celery, fennel, fresh cranberries, apples and sage. Chances are your guests won’t even miss the other stuff!
3) Let go of the rolls.
The Thanksgiving meal has so many flavors to enjoy, that it seems like bread and butter are hardly necessary, so try skipping them altogether. They’re not good for anyone’s waistline, and offer little nutritional benefit so everyone is better off without them! If you feel that some bread variant is a must, then make your own cornbread from scratch, not a commercial mix.
4) Drink thoughtfully.
Guzzling wine or cocktails throughout the meal isn’t the healthiest way to honor the day, so if you do have an alcoholic beverage, go slowly and savor your sips. For that festive feeling, stick to bubbles, alternating soda water with Prosecco to help stay hydrated and happy throughout the meal. However, do keep in mind that Prosecco has roughly 100 calories per glass, so try not to over-indulge. It’s always best to eat your calories rather than drink them!

5) Do a “7th inning stretch.”
Before you break out the dessert and coffee, take the entire gang out for a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood. A short walk after a meal has been shown to aid digestion, blood sugar and lipid levels.

6) Save room for dessert.
There’s something about warm fruit in a crust that’s hard to beat, but traditional pies or commercially made ones can be loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats. How to get around pie’s downside? Try a healthier fruit crumble instead. Look for recipes that go light on sugar and use healthier ingredients like dates, arrowroot, almond flour and steel cut oats.
Translate these tips to the table with my healthy and perfect-for-Thanksgiving “Swift Swap” recipe suggestions:

  • …instead of bread-based stuffing, lighten it up with wild rice dressing recipe from MyFoodMyHealth.com:

    Wild Rice and Mushroom Dressing
    Makes 8-10 Servings

    8 tablespoons coconut oil
    4 large onions (about 2 3/4 pounds), halved, thinly sliced
    1 1/4 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini and stemmed shiitake), sliced
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
    5 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
    3 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
    1 1/3 cups wild rice (about one 8-ounce package)
    1 1/4 cups brown rice
    1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
    3/4 to 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
    1 cup dried cranberries      

    Heat 4 tablespoons coconut oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until very tender and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Transfer onions to large bowl. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons coconut oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and 1 tablespoon thyme; sauté until mushrooms are deep brown, about 12 minutes. Add to bowl with onions. Season with salt and pepper.

    Bring broth, 1 tablespoon thyme, and 2 teaspoons sage to boil in heavy large deep saucepan. Mix in wild rice and brown rice return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 minutes until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in caramelized onions and mushrooms, remaining 1 tablespoon thyme, and 1 teaspoon sage. Stir in dried cranberries. Cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in toasted pecans.  Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup parsley. 

  • ...instead of bread or rolls, make the best, healthiest cornbread possible. Try Dr. Andrew Weil’s version
  • …instead of a traditional slab of pie and ice cream, try one of Wholefoodsimply.com’s lighter, healthier crust-free pumpkin crumble or apple crumble made with nuts and dates

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.

Kathie SwiftComment