One of my favorite holidays is coming up in two days! I love Thanksgiving, because it's a time for family and good food. However, just because it's a special occasion, it does not mean you should gobble up everything in sight and stuff yourself silly. Keep portion sizes in mind when you're sitting at the dinner table with that huge turkey and vast dishes of casseroles in front of you. For women, a portion of lean protein should be the size of your palm. For men, a portion equals two palms. Opt for sweet potatoes instead of regular white potatoes. That green bean casserole? Don't be fooled and think that because it's a vegetable, it's a healthy dish. Green bean casseroles are generally made with lots of cream and milk, not to mention the fried onions on top. The Kraft's Stove Top stuffing that most people use? It's pretty much pure butter and processed carbs, so go lightly. Bread pudding? If you must, limit yourself to a couple spoonfuls. Have wine instead of beer. But don't drink like you're at a frat party - a glass should suffice. Just sip it slowly throughout your meal. Drinking alcohol inhibits enzymes that oxidize fat and carbohydrates, so eating a big meal and drinking alcohol at the same time is a surefire way to pack on the fat and flab. Eyeing up the pumpkin pie and apple pie for dessert? Cut yourself a little piece (the size of two or three fingers) and eat it slowly, or share a piece with someone.
You don't have to deprive yourself. You can have a bit of everything, as long as you don't go overboard. Of course, sometimes there will always be that one pesky family member nagging you to eat more and more. Don't give in, and just politely decline. For me, there's nothing I hate more than someone pushing me to eat this or that. Everyone has preferences on what they like to eat or not eat, whether it's due to their religion, culture, or lifestyle. Others should be mindful and respectful of that.
The day of Thanksgiving, try to get in a quick 10 minute, high intensity interval workout before dinner.
Now that I've made your eyes bleed by preaching about the evils of Thanksgiving dishes, here are some recipes that I'm cooking up on Thanksgiving, including healthy modifications with each one. I've had these dishes every single Thanksgiving for the past 25 years, and I'm not about to break tradition now. We were able to snag a Kirkland's USDA inspected, 99% fat free, extra lean turkey breast from the Costco here (yes, there's an actual Costco here, stocked with American brand items, just like home!).
Vegan Turkey Gravy
I'm halving this recipe since I'm only making dinner for James and I, and gravy keeps only 2 days (3 days tops) in the fridge. Not much to modify here; it's a pretty good recipe.
- I'm using ground up rolled oats instead of all purpose flour. Rolled oats generally have a lower glycemic index and don't cause huge spikes in insulin. They're also higher in nutritional value than white flour.
- I'm adding a bay leaf.
Since I don't eat bread or processed carbs, I found this recipe which uses quinoa instead of bread. Quinoa is fantastic. It's high in complete protein (contains all nine essential amino acids) and fiber, and gluten free. When James was in GA last weekend, he stopped by the Trader Joe's in Atlanta and was able to bring back 3 boxes of organic quinoa for me. Oh, how I miss Trader Joe's.
- I'm substituting fresh cranberries for raisins.
- Coarsely chopped almonds for pine nuts (I don't have pine nuts).
- For more flavor, I'm using chicken broth to cook the quinoa. I'm going to follow the directions on the box on how to cook it.
- Instead of stuffing the turkey (since we have a turkey breast), I'm going to toss everything except the quinoa into a baking dish and bake at ~ 400 F for 15-20 mins, then mix in the cooked quinoa, cover with foil, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Green Bean Casserole
- I'm not frying the shallots like the recipe says to. Instead, I'm going to use baked onion rings. Cut up a yellow onion. Mix an egg and 3 Tbsp of milk together. Dip the onion pieces in the egg/milk mix, then coat with coarsely ground up oats. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a wire rack, and bake at 450 F for ~20 mins, turning them once after 10 minutes. Sprinkle on top of the casserole after it's baked. Or, you can wait and bake them with the casserole.
- I'm using ground up rolled oats in place of flour.
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, instead of 1/3 cup.
- Cilantro instead of parsley (I can't find parsley here, plus I love the taste of cilantro).
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- I'm probably going to add a couple cloves of roasted garlic, just because I loooove garlic.
- I'll probably use a 1/4 cup of honey to start, and gradually add a bit more if needed.
- Freshly squeezed OJ. Bottled juice is just full of sugar and few or no nutrients.
- No orange zest, but I'm going to jazz it up with some grated ginger and a dash of cinnamon.
- I'm not using the crust recipe provided. Instead, I'm using another one. See below.
- I'm not topping it with the streusel, either. I'll probably top it with a mix of rolled oats, cinnamon, chopped almonds, and a drizzle of honey.
- I'm making my own pumpkin puree.
- I'm using light coconut milk. EDIT: Ended up using half a cup.
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar instead of 1/2 cup of white sugar. EDIT: The 1/4 cup of brown sugar was perfect! It was still very sweet!
- EDIT: The pumpkin I roasted ended up being under 2 cups, so I threw in a roasted sweet potato as well. Turned out it was a great idea. I think it gave the pie a nice, deep flavor!
Oatmeal Pie Crust
- Olive oil instead of grapeseed oil.
- I'm going to sprinkle in some pumpkin pie spice, cocoa powder, and grated ginger in as well! I think it will give it a nice twist and complement the pumpkin filling nicely. EDIT: Ended up throwing in some whey protein as well! It was delicious!
I'm making the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin pie the night before to save some time. The husband has been in the Philippines, and gets into town late afternoon. So, I'm planning on cooking the sweet potatoes and roasting the cloves while I do my workout, then get started on making the rest of the dishes in time for dinner.
And I'm going to blast Red Hot Chili Peppers all day while I do everything, because everything is better when RHCP is playing in the background!