Let’s not beat around the bush: Thanksgiving is a time for eating. While other holidays pair an activity with the festivities, like gift-giving for Christmas or trick-or-treating for Halloween, the focus of Thanksgiving is dinner. It’s nicknamed Turkey Day for a reason. You may develop strategies to avoid overindulging, but another option is cooking a healthier meal. And so, Getting Creative with Comfort Foods is back with a healthy twist on Thanksgiving!
Rethinking the Classic Turkey
There are many ways to cut calories when making Thanksgiving dinner. However, one stands above the rest. If you don’t mind being a little untraditional, serve up turkey breasts instead of a full turkey. They will be easier to portion (you can do roughly one breast per person) and cook.
The health advantage here is that skinless white meat is significantly lower in calories. In fact, dark meat with skin has roughly double the calories. Using individual turkey breasts instead of a full bird also allows you to use healthier ingredients. You don’t need butter to baste the turkey with or to crisp the skin. You can also grill the breasts for added fat reduction.
Mashed Potatoes and Green Bean Casserole
When it comes to sides, the two classics are mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Luckily, making those two side dishes healthy is something we’ve tackled before.
There are a few ways to lighten up mashed potatoes, without changing the flavor. Generally, mashed potatoes are potatoes (mashed) with milk and butter, along with salt and pepper. This gives you plenty of wiggle room to experiment. For example, try swapping butter for sour cream or low-fat margarine, or try skim milk instead of full-fat milk.
Much like mashed potatoes, there are several ways to make green bean casserole healthier. The trick is to take the regular ingredients and use healthier alternatives. For example, most classic recipes call for mushroom soup. You can improve the recipe by using the low fat or low sodium version. The cleverest way to cut calories is by reinventing the fried onions. Baking them, by following our recipe below, can make your dish significantly lighter.
A Dinner’s Worth of Recipes
For the Turkey Breasts
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
- ½ tbsp of garlic powder
- ½ tbsp onion powder
- ¼ tbsp of dried basil
- 4 tsp of brown sugar
- 1 tbsp of sea salt
- 1 tsp of black pepper
- 2 turkey breasts
- Mix the marinade ingredients and pour in a resealable bag. Add the turkey breasts to the bag and make sure they are thoroughly covered.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat grill or grill-pan over medium-high heat (roughly 350°) and lightly brush the grates with olive oil.
- Place the turkey breasts on grill and close the grill lid
- Cook each side of the breasts for 15 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165°.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before serving
Lite Mashed Potatoes
- 8 medium russet potatoes, peeled
- ¼ cup of skim milk
- ¼ cup of margarine
- 2 tbsp of low-fat sour cream
- 6-10 cloves of roasted garlic (to taste)
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Peel the skin off one bulb of garlic. Cut the tip off the bulb, exposing the very tops of the individual cloves.
- Place the bulb of garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper, then wrap in tin foil.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes, until browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Bring roughly 8 cups of salted water to a boil.
- Drop peeled potatoes in boiling water. Bring water to a simmer at low heat and cook potatoes until soft. This should take 15-20 minutes.
- Drain water and place in large bowl.
- Mash potatoes and add in roasted garlic to taste. Mix in warm skim milk, margarine, and sour cream. Salt and pepper to taste. You can add additional milk, margarine, or sour cream to reach your desired texture.
Skinny Green Bean Casserole Ingredients
- 4 cups of green beans
- 1 tsp of low sodium soy sauce
- 1 ½ cups of French fried onions/Baked “Fried” Onions
- 2 cans of low fat/low sodium cream of mushroom soup
- ½ cup of almond milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
Baked “Fried” Onions Ingredients
- 2 large onions, sliced into thin rings
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 tbsp of paprika
- ½ tbsp of garlic powder
- ½ tbsp of salt
- 1 tsp of black pepper
For directions on how to make the casserole, try Campbell’s classic Green Bean Casserole recipe. Just be sure to use the light substitutions we list above!
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Slice onion rings in half, making semi-circles
- Beat the eggs in a bowl
- Mix the flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper
- Dip the onions in the egg and dredge in the flour mixture
- Place the onions on a baking rack over a tin foil-covered baking sheet
- Bake for 20 minutes, checking at 10 and 15 minutes, or until crispy and golden-brown
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If you have a healthy recipe for any other Thanksgiving treats, share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll test them out and share our favorites!