Healthier Twists on Our Thanksgiving Faves

Thanksgiving dinner can be a perfectly healthy, well-balanced meal. We're presented with platters of vegetables and lean meat. The reason many of us walk away feeling over stuffed or even gain a few pounds over the holidays is not only the amounts we consume but how we traditionally prepare them. Many of our traditional faves are loaded with empty calories from excess sugar, butter, and cream. (Empty calories meaning ingredients or foods that provide little nutritional value - things like soda, candy, butter, bacon, etc.)

Listed below are a few healthier twists on some of our Thanksgiving favorites...

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries are naturally a bit tart and require a bit of sweetness to cut some of the bite. However, many recipes call for way more sugar than necessary. You can usually cut the amount of sugar in a recipe (whether it is cranberry sauce or baked goods) in half! You can also sweeten with a splash of apple cider or fresh squeezed oranges for a bit more flavor and sweetness but less added sugar.
Here is a healthier and lower sugar cranberry sauce recipe from Cookie and Kate.

Gravy
Gravy is traditionally made from turkey drippings often containing a large amount of saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of fat that is solid at room temperature. Eating too much saturated fat is not great for our heart health long term.
If you let your turkey drippings cool, you can scrape the fat off the top and discard. Typically gravy requires a type of roux to thicken the sauce. Instead of mixing flour and butter you can use cornstarch and water for the same effect.
Additionally, you could make this delicious mushroom gravy from Whole Foods. I made this recipe last year and it was a huge crowd pleaser!

Stuffing
Traditional stuffing is drenched in butter and often scattered with bacon or sausage. Although they taste great, they are foods that provide us with little health benefit. It is possible to create an equally delicious yet healthier stuffing. Try using a dash of olive oil just to prevent sticking and soaking in vegetable broth or a little white wine instead of the butter.
Try these healthier recipes: Martha Stewart's Healthy Harvest Stuffing or Gluten-Free Walnut, Kale, Quinoa Stuffing from Healthy Seasonal Recipes.

Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are a staple at any Thanksgiving dinner table. I always recommend leaving the skins on potatoes because they're loaded with fiber. Many of us do not meet our recommended daily amount of fiber.
Fiber helps to fill us up and keep us full longer. It is also important for:
     - Digestion and normalizing bowel movements
     - Helping to lower cholesterol
     - Weight management
     - Blood sugar control
A few tips for healthier mashed potatoes:
     -Cut the amount of butter in half, gradually add it in to taste
     -Use skim or 1% milk over whole milk or cream or even add some low-fat greek yogurt for the same creaminess with added protein

Try these from Food and Wine. You could also try Mashed Sweet Potatoes or Mashed Cauliflower.

What healthy food swaps have you tried and loved for Thanksgiving?