So you made it through Halloween without overdosing on candy. Congratulate yourself, but get ready, because the next Holiday is one of the biggest dietary challenges of the year; Thanksgiving.
You’ve probably seen the reports that Americans, on average, gain 7-10 pounds between Halloween and New Years. Maybe you’ve even fallen victim to some holiday weight gain. Whatever the case may be, I’m here to help you through the winter months and stay focused on a healthy lifestyle.
Before I get into the 3 easy and healthy Thanksgiving food swaps, I do want to put a disclaimer out there.
Thanksgiving is one day. One day will NOT make you fat and/or out of shape. You won’t deteriorate into a sloppy mess of lard if you overindulge for one day. I can promise you that. This is especially true if you’ve laid the groundwork for the majority of the year by living a healthy lifestyle with a clean diet.
I don’t want this to come across as a don’t enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving type of post, but I do want to offer some assistance so that you can stay on the safer side during this holiday. People tend to fall “off the wagon” and lose confidence. They never get back “on the wagon” and further regress their fitness level.
These 3 Thanksgiving food swaps will fulfill your holiday cravings, keep you closer to your nutritional goals and allow you to easily get back on track after Thanksgiving.
#1: Baked Apples for Apple Pie
Apple Pie is a Thanksgiving staple. Apple Pie is also terrible for you. Assuming you’re no fool, you probably like a little bit of ice cream on top of your warm Apple Pie too, right? That definitely doesn’t help. Coming in around 600 calories, 90 grams of sugar and 30 grams of fat for a moderate slice of Apple Pie a la Mode, you may not want to go that route this Thanksgiving.
Instead, try a Baked Apple. You can even top it with a little bit of raisins, nuts, cinnamon, pumpkin spice and coconut oil to enhance the flavor. Use whipped cream if you’re feeling crazy.
Just cut [in half] and core a large Honeycrisp apple, then spread some coconut oil on the flesh of each half. Top it with your favorite nuts and spices, then bake it for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Throw some whipped cream on top to complete the I miss you, Apple Pie effect and you’ll be good!
#2: Baked Sweet Potato for Candied Yams
Candied Yams; another Thanksgiving side dish that people would die for. I mean, what’s not to like? You’ve got Yams, Marshmallows, Pecans, Brown Sugar and Butter all mashed together into a glorious pile of deliciousness.
One serving of this will probably register at around 500 calories and close to 80 grams of sugar. It’s not even technically a dessert! This is like cheating the system. You add this to your plate with turkey and other side items, finish it, then go eat “dessert.”
A healthier, and in my opinion, tastier swap for this would be baked sweet potatoes. You can get creative with this one. I’ve baked sweet potatoes, topped it with pecans, bacon and cinnamon, and enjoyed that as a food swap. You can enjoy sweet potato fries, spiced up however you’d like. Another option is mashed sweet potatoes, using coconut oil, coconut milk and spiced up to taste.
However you go about this Thanksgiving food swap, you’ll surely save yourself from a sugar-high (and crash) that will ensue if you go with the Candied Yams.
#3: Roasted Veggies for Green Bean Casserole
In theory, Green Bean Casserole seems harmless. If you dig deep into the recipe, you could probably do without the heavy cream and fried onions. Now, if you’re making the Paula Dean version, you’re probably throwing in an entire stick of butter and maybe some cheddar cheese too.
Let’s stray away from ruining simple Green Beans like that. Instead of making a casserole, try roasting a wide variety of vegetables together – you can even drizzle it with a creative sauce if you want.
Roast a pound of the following veggies for 25 minutes at 400 degrees:
- Carrots (cut to spears)
- Brussels Sprouts (cut into halves)
- Golden Beets (skinned and chopped)
- Butternut Squash (skinned and cubed)
(Drizzle those with Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
With about 10 minutes left to roast, add the following:
- 4 cups Kale
- 2 cups Green Onion
- Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano to taste
- Apple Cider Vinaigrette
- ½ cup EVOO
- ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tbsp Honey
- 2 tbsp Mustard
- Salt & Pepper
Now you can enjoy a larger spread of veggies that aren’t drowning in Cream of Mushroom soup, cheese and fried onions!
Like I mentioned before, Thanksgiving is just one day. Don’t let it spill over for the next week. Don’t let the host insist on sending you home with all of the leftover beer and an endless supply of holiday food. Enjoy your day, try to stay on track to the best of your ability and continue to make progress toward whatever your goal is!
– Justin Ochoa