How to Lighten Up Classic Thanksgiving Recipes

Classic Thanksgiving recipes are like old friends – the ultimate comfort food. In fact, that’s what we all relish about holiday feasts: it’s a time to indulge. Family memories are made sharing Grandma’s Green Bean Casserole or Aunt Martha’s Scalloped Corn…the one that Martha makes irresistibly rich with butter, sour cream, crisp bacon and shredded cheese. Wow.

Of course, keep those dishes on the table, and celebrate them. But to balance them out a bit, you can make a few changes to the rest of your menu. Other traditional favorites will be just as good (or maybe even better!) when they feature less calories and fat.

Scale Down the Stuffing

To lighten up traditional stuffing (and as a bonus, make it gluten-free), turn to recipes that use white rice, brown rice, barley or quinoa instead of bread cubes. If you want to add sausage, use turkey sausage; it typically has ⅓ the fat of pork sausage.

You can also prepare your traditional bread stuffing recipe with a healthier twist. Just substitute chopped carrots, parsnips, apples, leeks or butternut squash for some of the bread cubes.

Simplify the Sweet Potatoes

For reducing calories, simple solutions are always best. Sweet potatoes already have sweet in the name, right? No marshmallows needed. This time, let that natural sweetness shine and bake the sweet potatoes whole. Yet another bonus – no peeling. Use the red skinned, orange on the inside sweet potatoes, as they bake up especially tender. Split them open and scoop out the cooked potato, and you’ll find that they’re practically mashed already. Mix well with a little grated ginger and lightly sautéed garlic. Delicious!

Butternut squash can be baked and mashed for the same festive color and even fewer calories and carbs.

Naturally Sweeten the Cranberry Sauce

Adding more fruit to your homemade cranberry sauce means you need to add much less sugar. Chopped apples, pureed bananas or pureed fresh pineapple can add a sweet counterpoint to the tart berries.

Minimize the Mashed Potatoes

When you’re making certain recipes, full-fat versions of a substitute often taste better than a reduced-fat or no-fat version of the original ingredient. It’s no secret that plain Greek yogurt is a good substitute for reduced-fat sour cream in dips – but it is a secret that it can replace butter and milk when making mashed potatoes. A little vegetable broth or chicken broth will add flavor and moisture if it’s needed.

Pour the Pumpkin

Lose all the calories and fat in the crust – instantly – and make your pumpkin pie much easier to prepare. Just pour the traditional pumpkin filling into small ramekins and bake. Top with a sprinkle of crushed pecans for a little crunchiness.

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