Healthy takes on your Thanksgiving favourites

By: Oct 09, 2013

A few ingredient substitutions can make your Thanksgiving dinner not only delicious, but also low in fat and calories.

If it is your turn to host Thanksgiving this year, it doesn’t have to fill you with consternation. And just because your sister is insisting that you make sure it’s a traditional one with “all the fixins,” doesn’t mean that fixins and unhealthy have to necessarily go hand in hand.

Believe it or not, preparing a delicious yet healthy dinner, low in fat and calories, isn't that difficult. All you need are a few unique fat-busting techniques and some simple ingredient substitutions.

The Turkey, Gotta Have the Turkey
Whether you want to host a traditional Thanksgiving or a modern one, Turkey is of course, a must! Apart from being relatively healthy, if done right and isn’t dry, it can be the highlight of the meal. If you have invited a few friends, a turkey breast will suffice, which is low in calories compared to the whole bird. However, if you do go for the whole bird, do not purchase a self-basting turkey, as they come loaded with fat and calories. Another trick to an unforgettable turkey is to roast or smoke the turkey. For better taste, stuff the turkey with onions, apples or lemons, and a few fresh herbs. You can include thyme and rosemary, marjoram and sage, along with a pinch of salt and some pepper.

Two little tricks to avoid that dry turkey so many people are famous for making (including probably your sister):

  • One is to get a clay oven that has a lid and fill it with an inch of water and put the turkey inside. Cook at the same temperature and in the same position in the oven.
  • Another is to cook your turkey in a convection oven, fill the tray with an inch of water and you don’t even need to cover it. Convection ovens have a wonderful way of sealing in the natural juices that traditional ovens can’t even touch.

Yummy Calorie-Light Gravy
To make gravy that is as delicious as it is low in calories is to use olive oil. Avoid using turkey drippings for gravy, which are higher in both saturated fat and cholesterol. However, if you still want to go for turkey drippings, use a gravy separator to allow the gravy to settle for a few minutes. This means some of the fat will float on top of the glass and you can skim that easily.

Cranberry Sauce Can Be Delicious and Healthy
No traditional Thanksgiving is complete without cranberry sauce. But keep in mind, the first Thanksgiving dinner included real cranberries not some odd mold from a can. Homemade cranberry sauce made with orange or apple juice and water is a perfect blend of flavours and much healthier than a can loaded with high fructose corn syrup. You can preserve it for the next day for an even better taste. If your traditionalist sister complains it isn’t sweet enough, add a touch of brown – not white – sugar to the mix, some cinnamon or nutmeg and your cranberry sauce will be a huge hit!

Yams: An Unusual Break From Tradition
Why not be a little daring this year? While it might raise a few eyebrows when it is first presented, one taste and your guests will go, “Hmmmm! What is THAT?” You can tell them, “Why that’s my variation of the traditional yam. It’s called sweet potato curry with spinach and chickpeas.”

The best part is that it’s super easy to make.

  • Peel, chop, and cook yams in a steamer
  • In a saucepan on the stove sauté onions, and then add cumin, curry powder and cinnamon for the curry
  • You can even add some garlic, a tablespoon of grated ginger and pepper flakes for extra flavor while sautéing the onion
  • Add tomatoes, chickpeas and fresh spinach for thick gravy
  • Serve hot to liven up otherwise boring rice

Traditionalist or modern, out of the box thinker, Thanksgiving dinner can truly be both healthful and delicious. With a bit of preparation, you needn’t have to open a can or get the turkey pre-basted. Even if your sister doesn’t admit it, she’ll love it too!