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How to Have a Healthier (But still Thanks-Worthy) Thanksgiving Dinner

While the 4th of July conjures up images of cook outs and white cakes decorated with blue and red berries, Valentine’s Day means decadent chocolates, and many religions have food-centric holidays of sorts, I think most people would agree that Thanksgiving is one of the most delicious holidays of all. Heaping portions of buttery mashed potatoes, creamy crispy green bean casseroles, piping hot stuffing, giant turkeys, and an abundance of pies all make Thanksgiving one of the most mouthwatering days in American tradition.
 
With a meal as delicious as the traditional Thanksgiving feast, who wants to think about silly things like calories and portion control? But as tasty as traditional Thanksgiving fare may be, it is also pretty heavy on indulgent ingredients and recipes that seem more like they’re from the fifties than the first Thanksgiving dinner with the Pilgrims and Indians.
 

If you’re looking to have a tasty Turkey Day without having to worry about the number of miles you’ll have to run to burn off that third helping of potatoes, try these simple tips for making a healthier, but no less delicious, Thanksgiving dinner.
 
Green Bean Casserole
 

This side dish is usually made with canned soup, which means it has a lot of fat and sodium, and the crispy onions on top, while tasty, add unnecessary calories.
 
Healthier versions that will remind you of the classic:
 
Healthy Green Bean Casserole
This recipe stays very true to the original but uses whole grain bread crumbs, nonfat milk, and sautéed (rather than fried) onions to create the same creamy, crunchy casserole you’re used to.
 
Greek-Style Braised Green Beans
The green beans in this dish stay soft without being mushy, and the texture will remind you of the typical creaminess you’d get from its unhealthy counterpart.
 
The Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole
If you want a healthy vegan version, this is your go-to recipe. It has all of the elements you’d want in a green bean casserole (rich white sauce, crunchy topping) and it is a lot better for you!
 
An interesting twist if you’re feeling adventurous:
 
Padma’s Coconut Green Beans
My family has been eating this green bean dish at Thanksgiving for several years now, and it is a big crowd pleaser! It’s a lot healthier than your typical green bean casserole because it eliminates the white sauce entirely and gives a crunch from the cashews and coconut rather than anything that is fried.
 
Mashed Potatoes
 
While we all love the classic buttery, creamy, salty, heavenly mashed potatoes, it’s no secret that they are one of the least healthy Thanksgiving sides. Because most recipes contain loads of butter, salt, sour cream, and full fat milk, mashed potatoes can completely derail any attempt at having a healthy Thanksgiving.
 
Healthier versions that will remind you of the classic:
 
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Ellie Krieger is Food Network’s expert when it comes to making healthy dishes, and she manages to make classic mashed potatoes virtually guilt-free by using olive oil and naturally creamy Yukon gold potatoes, instead of heavy cream or butter, to make her potatoes rich.
 
Mashed Potatoes
You’ll think you’re eating regular old mashed potatoes if you taste these, but the incorporation of reduced-fat sour cream and reduced-sodium chicken broth into this recipe make it a lot healthier than the typical dish.
 
An interesting twist if you’re feeling adventurous:
 
Mustard-Roasted Potatoes
This recipe from my favorite food blog Smitten Kitchen is healthier than mashed potatoes because it completely eliminates heavy cream and only uses a small amount of butter. If you’re looking for a tasty, crispy potato dish instead of mashed potatoes, give this one a try.
 
Stuffing

Stuffing that uses white bread and butter is, needless to say, another source of fat and calories in the typical Thanksgiving meal. By swapping in whole grain bread and stocks for the white bread and butter, you can make stuffing a lot healthier.
 
Healthier versions that will remind you of the classic:
 
Healthy Stuffing
This stuffing contains all of the flavors you’d typically expect from the side dish, but the use of chicken broth and light butter means it has a mere 106 calories per serving.
 
Healthy Stuffing #2
Here’s a great stuffing recipe for those who like dried fruit and sausage in their stuffing. Using turkey sausage and substituting olive oil for the majority of the butter and whole wheat bread instead of white, this recipe is sure to satisfy.
 
An interesting twist if you’re feeling adventurous:
Wild Rice with Cranberries and Applies
It’s not stuffing, but this wild rice dish is a great alternative side dish because it eliminates bread entirely without sacrificing in flavor! The walnuts add a nice crunch, while the dried cranberries and apple give it a tangy sweet and tart flavor.
 
Dessert

One of the best parts of the Thanksgiving meal (and of any meal for that matter) is the dessert. Thanks to these innovative recipes, even those who are trying to have a healthy meal can indulge in Thanksgiving-worthy dessert. (Tip: go for the applie and pumpkin pie but avoid the pecan pie, which has the highest number of calories, fat, and carbs!)
 
Naked Apple Pie
All of the flavor of the classic, but without the heavy (and unhealthy) crust.
 
Deep-Dish Apple Pie
This recipe, which uses whole-wheat pastry flour, is perfect those who don’t want to give up the crust.
 
“Healthy” Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin is naturally good for you, and this recipe is just about the healthiest pumpkin pie you can make.
 
Poached Pears
All of the flavor of fall with none of the sugar of baked goods.

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