How to Make A Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner, From A to Z

The average American gains 5.8 lbs from November until the beginning of January.  Every. Single. Year.

It usually stays there, and only pays large dividends for a New Year’s resolution industry that siphons profits from our recidivism.

Thanksgiving dinner isn’t going anywhere, and even if it did, your in-laws would still need something to do with their holiday vacation time.

So to mitigate the health disaster that is the holiday feasting season, here are healthy takes on all the traditional Thanksgiving favorites.

The Turkey

The Basics:  If you’re a paleo or low-carb dieter then there’s nothing wrong with the Thanksgiving Turkey.  If you’re a vegan it’s a monstrosity.

The alternative:  Truth be told, there’s no suitable vegetarian alternative that maps 1-for-1 with the Turkey….at least that I know of.  Your best option seems to be a loaf of some sort made from soy or beans.

My favorite (maybe just for the name) is the No-Fu Love Loaf by Dreena Burton.

It has quite a few ingredients, but it pushes all my health buttons the right way.   Here are the basics:

No-Fu Love Loaf

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup brown (green) lentils
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3/4 cup bulgur (toasted cracked wheat) (for gluten-free version, use certified gf steel cut oats)
  • 1 cup water, boiled
  • 1/4 cup natural ketchup
  • 1 cup rolled or quick oats (ensure gf certified for gluten-free)
  • 3 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp ground white chia (or can use flax meal)
  • 2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (see note for gf version)
  • 2 tbsp tahini or sunflower seed butter
  • 2 tsp blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ – 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp ground fennel (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Read the rest at plant powered kitchen.

Gravy

gravy

Image courtesy of The blooming platter

The Basics:  What’s wrong with gravy?  Pretty much everything.  It’s saturated fat stewed with white flour.  Not a whole lot to like there…by anyone.

The alternatives:  If you’re looking for a healthy gravy alternative that’s still palatable you’ll either need to replace the flour with some other thickener or the animal fat with an oil based alternative.  I honestly don’t think either of these are ideal, but both are better than the status quo.

Never the less, here are two decent alternatives:

Vegan gravy.   Low-carb gravy. (Made with xantham gum).

If you’re serious about keeping off the weight, I’d suggest opening up your mind to gravy free alternatives for enjoying your Thanksgiving meal.

Which brings me to my favorite choice……..

Cranberry Relish

low carb cranberry sauce

Recipe via Low Carb One Day

The Basics:  Cranberry relish has a lot to like about it without any additional modifications.  The stuff you get in a can is bad, but most homemade recipes have a lot going for them.  (In fact, I’ve found few published recipes that are better than the one my mom makes, which had fresh cranberries and orange peel as the principal ingredients.

The Alternatives:  The big culprit in most cranberry relish recipes is the amount of sugar added, so presumably the paleo/low-carb community would have more to add here.   You could also take your favorite recipe and use a sugar substitute (Stevia and splenda are my two favorites).

But for my favorite I’m going to go with the Cranberry relish from Low Carb One Day, which is very, very easy to make and sticks to the basics.

Mashed Potatoes

mashed cauliflower

Mashed cauliflower? You bet! Picture courtesy of Nom Nom paleo

The basics: In my book mashed potatoes are a decent carb if eaten in moderation.  They’re very starchy, which doesn’t make them bad for your health.  That said, there are improvements you could make, specifically if you’re a strict low-carb dieter.

The alternatives:  We should thank the heavens and praise Allah that for some incredible reason, you can puree cauliflower and it miraculously tastes just as good as regular mashed potatoes.  Terrific!

Here’s a great mashed cauliflower recipe from Nom Nom Paleo that has outstanding photo instructions.

Blueberry Muffins

The basics:  Like any baked good the ingredients that need to be removed will depend on whether or not you ask someone who dislikes animal products or carbohydrates.  In my opinion removing the white carbs is probably the most important step to take.

The alternatives:  There are lots of yummy healthy blueberry muffin recipes out there and you can almost definitely find more than enough to suit your preferences.  It could be as simple as improving the quality of flour used in them, or entirely removing classes of ingredients (like carbs or fat).

My favorite are  these low-carb blueberry muffins due to their simplicity.

Low Carb Blueberry Muffins

low carb so simple

Image and recipe courtesy of Low Carb So Simple

Ingredients:

3 extra large organic eggs
1/4 cup = 60 ml organic heavy cream
1/3 cup = 80 ml = 70 g erythritol crystals
5 tablespoons = 75 ml = 37 g organic coconut flour
1/2 cup = 120 ml frozen organic blueberries

Get the rest of the recipe at Low Carb So Simple.

Sweet Potato Casserole

sweet potato casserole

Image courtesy of A Sweet Pea Chef

The Basics: Sweet potatoes are one of the finest edible things on earth, and mankind owes a lot of its existence to the presence of nutritious tubers such as itself.  I find sweet potato casserole to be delicious, but unfortunately….at a price.  Lots of sugar.  Lots of fat.  LOTS.

The alternatives:  Again, the direction you want to go in here depends on whether or not you’re trying to get rid of butter or sugar.

The one that seemed to have the best combination of ingredients to me was a recipe by Oh She Glows. 

Ingredients

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
  • 1/3 cup white or spelt flour (or gluten-free)
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans (I didn’t have- optional)

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2009/11/24/this-aint-grandmas-sweet-potato-casserole/#ixzz2lDhMiFtq

Stuffing

paleo stuffing

Image courtesy of Paleo Movement

The Basics:  I looooove stuffing.  I could eat an entire pan of it…no joke.  It doesn’t fill me up one iota, and after a few bites my brain’s infused with white-carb induced bliss.  Here, for health options I tend to gravitate towards paleo options, since getting the mouth feel of prepared croutons without the carbs is the real trick.

The alternative:  I like the recipe by the Paleo Movement magazine.   It uses a mix of pork and sweet potatoes, plus all the usual seasonings, to arrive at the final dish.  It admittedly doesn’t quite have the same starchy mouth feel as regular stuffing, but it’s admirably close.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground pork
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced bell peppers
4 cups (about 1 pound) diced mushrooms
2 cups diced apples
8 oz fresh cranberries
1 cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)
~ 2 T duck fat, bacon fat, butter, or coconut oil. (I used duck fat)
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 T fresh thyme, minced
2-3 leaves fresh sage (or 1/2 t dried)
sea salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup chicken or turkey stock
2 T coconut flour

View the rest of the recipe for this delicious paleo stuffing here.

Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie

Image and recipe courtesy of Healthful Pursuits

The Basics:  Ahhh, my favorite dessert!  The good news is that pumpkin all by itself is an excellent addition to a meal, sharing a lot in common with the sweet potato.  Furthermore, most pumpkin recipes don’t need a lot of additional ingredients to get the desired taste properties we all love, so it’s very easy to riff on this classic in ways that allow us to have our pie and eat it too (a bad joke, I know).

The alternative:  A little known secret is that the worst part of pie is the crust.  It’s little more than baked lard with some flour mixed in.  If you can fix that the rest is easy.

So with that being said, I think the best bet here is the pie-less pumpkin pie via healthful pursuit.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 15 ounces canned pumpkin puree – not pumpkin pie filling!
  • ¼ cup protein powder – see note
Topping
  • ? cup chopped raw pecans
  • 1 tsp cinnamon sugar (3/4 tsp coconut sugar, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp grapeseed oil
Drizzle

Get the rest of this delicious recipe here.

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About Jonathan Bechtel

Owner of Health Kismet, maker of Incredible Greens, a green superfood supplement that combines 35 different raw greens, herbs, probiotics, grasses and fruits into a sweet tasting powder.

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