Healthy Alternatives to Thanksgiving Classics
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A traditional Thanksgiving meal is high in calories, fat and sugar. You can significantly improve the nutrition profile of your holiday meal with some easy substitutions and alternatives. You do not have to sacrifice flavor to eat healthy foods, even on a holiday, nor do you have to spend all day in the kitchen. In your recipes, always use light versions of the ingredients, cut back on the butter and sugar and try these alternative choices.

Cocktails and Hors d'ouvres

Many of the calories and fat you consume on Thanksgiving starts before the main event, in the form of fatty crackers and cheese, sweet and sour meatballs, fried pastry goodies, salted nuts and more. Appetizers should be light but flavorful. Buy whole grain crackers that are low in fat or tasty crispbreads with sesame seeds toasted on top. Have reduced fat cheese and hummus on hand for topping and spreading. Have a wide variety of tasty raw veggies and reduced-fat dip and/or roasted vegetables (roast in your oven) such as red bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Brush them with olive oil before roasting. For beverages, serve diet ginger ale or low-calorie champagne punch. Mix low-calorie fruit punch with chilled champagne and serve out of a large punch bowl (keep it iced).

Saavy Side Dishes

Instead of regular low-fiber, high fat, nutrient-poor regular stuffing, make a homemade fruit stuffing. Start with whole wheat bread, cubed (12 slices). Toss in a cup of chopped cranberries, a half cup of raisins, 2 tablespoons of sugar or sweetener, a cup of low-sodium broth (chicken or vegetable), 2 tablespoons of light margarine, melted (such as Promise light), grated lemon and orange peel and a 2 tablespoons of fruit juice. Bake in a casserole dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray for about 35 minutes at 325 degrees.

Instead of regular mashed potatoes or candied yams, serve simple sweet potatoes, baked to perfection. If you just have to make the old fashioned green bean casserole, lose most of the fried onion rings and make it with non-fat cream of mushroom soup or served herbed green beans. Toss green beans that have been steamed or microwaved with a bit of olive oil and some of your favorite savory herbs, such as tarragon. Top with sauteed sweet red onions.

Simply Sweet and Light

What makes pies so fattening is the sugar and the pastry crust. You can significantly decrease the fat and calories by switching from a double crust fruit pie or pecan pie to pumpkin pie (and save 300 calories on average). You can make it even lighter by serving a pumpkin pudding or mousse instead. Make your own homemade version of vanilla pudding (you can make it in the microwave, just use evaporated skim milk or low-fat milk in place of whole milk or cream). When you've prepared your pudding, fold in a can of pumpkin (depending upon how much pudding you've made you may require more or less than one 15-oz can). Do not use canned pumpkin pie mix, just the regular pumpkin. Chill it for at least 2 hours. Then serve it in fancy dessert glasses. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon sugar on top with a dollop of light whipped topping. If you want to serve more than one item for dessert, such as cookies, serve a variety that is naturally lower in fat, such as gingersnaps.

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