How To Make Your Thanksgiving Menu Healthier with Recipes
Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that’s lower in fat and calories but still thrills the crowd isn’t hard. All it takes is a few ingredient substitutions and some clever fat-busting techniques. Let’s take a look at how to make a delicious, healthier Thanksgiving meal.
If you’re hosting a small gathering, buy a turkey breast rather than the whole bird, as breast meat is lower in calories than dark meat.
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
“This is simple and delicious, and certainly not rocket science,” “No need to really add anything or change anything other than the cooking time — mine was done perfectly at 5-1/2 hours. The meat is tender, juicy, and delicately seasoned.”
Cranberry Stuffed Turkey Breasts
- 1 (12 ounce) package herb-seasoned bread stuffing mix
- 2 skinless boneless turkey breasts
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 2 (8 ounce) packages dried, sweetened cranberries
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 lettuce leaves
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
- With a sharp knife, butterfly breasts open to lay flat. Place each breast between two sheets of waxed paper, and flatten with a mallet. Spread the prepared stuffing to within 1/4 inch of the edge of each breast. Sprinkle each one with chopped pecans and dried cranberries, reserving some of the cranberries for garnish. Roll up tightly in a jellyroll style, starting with the long end. Tuck in ends, and tie in sections with string, about 4 sections around the middle and one running the length of the roll to secure the ends.
- Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully brown rolls on all sides.
- Place skillet in oven, uncovered. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature is at 170 degrees F (78 degrees C) when taken with a meat thermometer. Do not let these get overly dry.
- Allow rolls to set for 15 minutes before removing string, and slicing into 1/2 to 3/4 inch circles. Leave one roll whole, and slice the other for presentation. Stuffing will be spiraled into meat. Present on your prettiest platter on a bed of curly lettuce, and garnish by sprinkling with the remaining 1/2 cup pecan halves and the reserved dried cranberries.
“This one is a keeper,” “I make it every thanksgiving instead of the whole turkey — it turns out beautifully every time! Very pretty presentation, too!”
If you do buy a whole turkey, avoid “self-basting” turkeys, as they often contain added fat. And, it goes without saying, stay away from the deep fryer this year, and roast or smoke the turkey. Stuff the turkey cavity with whole or halved onions, halved lemons or apples, and sprigs of fresh herbs such as sage, marjoram, thyme, and/or rosemary. Rather than rubbing the skin with butter or oil, spray it with an oil spray and season it with salt and pepper.
Gravy is one of the biggest calorie culprits on the table. Use vegetable oil rather than turkey drippings when making the gravy — it’s still fat, but vegetable oil is lower in saturated fat and is cholesterol-free.
If you use turkey drippings to add flavor, use a gravy separator. Pour the gravy into a separator and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Some of the fat in the gravy will rise to the top of the glass where you can skim it off easily. Better yet, make a low-fat broth-based gravy or a vegetarian gravy instead.
- 2 cups hot water
- 2 cubes chicken bouillon
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- In a microwave safe dish heat water and bouillon on high, stirring occasionally until just boiling.
- In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and cold water and mix together; stir into the hot broth and cook on medium for about 1 minute, or until thick, stirring at 30 second intervals.
“This is awesome because it’s low fat, low cal, (for gravy!) and quick,” “I added a black pepper and a small pinch of ground sage.”
Instead of loading up your mashed potatoes with lots of butter and cream, add some of the starchy water you used to boil the potatoes. The starchy water will give your mashers a low-cal creamy texture and help cut back on fat.
You can also add turkey or chicken broth, evaporated skim milk, or fat-free sour cream to your mashed potatoes. For extra flavor, stir in roasted garlic and herbs. For added nutrition, add pureed cooked cauliflower, parsnips, or turnips — or replace the potatoes entirely with Mashed Parsnips or Mashed Turnips.
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower
- 2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 head cauliflower, chopped
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- salt to taste
- Combine potatoes and chicken broth in a slow cooker.
- Cook potatoes on Low for 3 hours. Add cauliflower and continue cooking on Low another 3 hours.
- Stir milk, butter, sour cream, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and salt into the potato mixture. Mash with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender to desired consistency.
- Continue cooking until hot, about 10 minutes more.
“This was good and a great way of adding extra veggies into a meal,” I had mine along side some corn and stuffing. It was the perfect accompaniment and easy to make.”
Cndied sweet potato casseroles in favor of a low-fat, naturally-sweetened sweet potatoes. Try a cranberry relish or cut down on the amount of sugar in your cranberry sauce by adding fruit juices or apple sauce.
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta Cheese
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Pierce potatoes with a fork and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool until potatoes can be handled, about 20 minutes.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a large baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, place olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook and stir until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. Set shells aside. Place pulp into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add ricotta, salt, pepper, ginger, and sugar to the blender; blend until smooth.
- Return potato mixture to a bowl; stir in shallots, Parmesan cheese, and sage. Spoon mixture back into potato skins. Place potatoes on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.
“These were absolutely fabulous,” says “We aren’t fond of sweet potato dishes that have a lot of added sugar, so this was really to our taste.”
y, where it absorbs fat from the turkey as it bakes. It’s hard to slim down a stuffing recipe, so take a small serving if it’s your Thanksgiving favorite. If you can avoid recipes using too much sausage or bacon; wild rice and grains are more nutritious than bread stuffings.
Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1/4 cup butter
- 6 cups coarsely chopped leeks
- 3 tart apples – peeled, cored and chopped
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 12 cups white bread cubes, baked until slightly dry
- 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Cook and stir sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling coarsely, for about 10 minutes. Remove sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Empty pan of grease.
- Into the same pan melt the butter. Add the leeks or onions, apples, celery and poultry seasoning; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the rosemary, dried cranberries and cooked sausage. Mix all with the dried bread cubes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Moisten with the chicken stock.
- Stuff turkey with about 5 cups for a 14 pound turkey. Add additional chicken stock to moisten stuffing if needed. Remaining stuffing can be baked in a covered buttered casserole at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes to brown top.
LivinOurLuvSong. “I left out the sausage and used veggie broth. I baked it in a pan and it was perfect.”
Crustless Pumpkin Pie
Most of the fat in a pie comes from the crust. Try a crust-free pumpkin pie recipe or a reduced-fat graham cracker crust.
Pumpkin Pie Squares
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
- 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- In a medium bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Mix in flour. Fold in oats. Press into a 9×13 inch baking dish.
- Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes, until set.
- In a large bowl, beat eggs with white sugar. Beat in pumpkin and evaporated milk. Mix in salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Pour over baked crust.
- Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, until set. Let cool before cutting into squares.
“This is a great recipe,” raves LAURA J JOHNSON. “It makes homemade pumpkin pie much easier and it tastes great.”