Are There Really Any Healthy Foods to Eat On Thanksgiving?
I know, I know. It’s Thanksgiving, it’s not supposed to be healthy.
But what happens if you’re going into the holidays and you actually want to eat healthy?
It’s actually pretty easy because there are a lot of really healthy foods in a typical Thanksgiving meal.
Obviously, some things you’re used to eating on the day of feasts don’t offer healthy alternatives. Of course I’m referring only to marshmallows.
But that should make sense.
On the other hand, most meals you enjoy on this day of eating until you’re so full you can’t move have viable, healthy alternatives.
Curious to see what constitutes a healthy Thanksgiving meal?
Take a look.
6 Healthy Foods to Eat On Thanksgiving
1 – Green Bean Casserole:
Alright, if I talk about green beans then you assume they’re healthy, because they’re green… I wrote an article about green beans right here. Where most people go wrong with green beans is they make a “typical” green bean casserole…the one loaded with milk and cream and fried onions (in breadcrumbs no less). If you want to have a healthier green bean casserole, it’s not a huge task.
All you’ve got to do is replace the dairy, the gluten, and the soy with things like coconut milk, pan seared onion (in olive oil or ghee), and nutritional yeast. These ingredients provide you with healthy fats that aren’t inflammatory, and it eliminates your exposure to known gut irritants (gluten and dairy).
2 – Gravy:
When people think about gravy they automatically think of pouring a gravy boat on top of puffy mashed potatoes loaded with artery-clogging fat. Truth is, if you’re eating a typical gravy recipe then that’s not far from the truth. Most typical gravies have milk, cornstarch, and flour. All of which are proven to be harmful for your health.
Gravy can be a horrible choice for Thanksgiving…unless you go with a healthy option like a paleo gravy. Adding ingredients like non-gluten thickeners (arrowroot, tapioca flour) and heavy creams in the form of coconut cream or coconut milk help you produce a thick, luxurious gravy that you’ll love.
Truthfully, gravy- when made with non-inflammatory ingredients- will be just as rich, just as savory, and far healthier than you could ever imagine.
3 – Cranberry Sauce:
Ok, so this dish is one of the easiest to make into a healthy option. First, let’s talk about cranberries.
Cranberries are hands down one of the healthiest foods around. It’s indisputable. They’re loaded with a ton of inflammation fighting antioxidants and contain special substances capable of fighting urinary tract infections along with Vitamin C, Manganese, fiber, Copper, Vitamin A and more.
Most exciting is the antioxidant capacity. Check out these amazing antioxidants found inside:
Anthocyanins – This class of antioxidants found in cranberries has the ability to destroy free-radicals in the body and in medical studies has shown benefits at promoting weight loss, lowering cholesterol and fighting breast cancer.
Quercetin – Possibly the most powerful phytonutrient in cranberries, quercetin is high anti-inflammatory and has been proven effective in reducing allergies, improving joint pain and reducing inflammation of the arterial walls.
Benzoic Acid – This powerful antiseptic acid is the main compound in cranberries that reduces the risk of infection and can kill bad bacteria to naturally treat UTI, bladder infections, and even acne.
Epicatechins – Are a class of phytonutrients also found in green tea and red wine. The epicatechins in cranberries have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
So what can you do to make a healthy Thanksgiving cranberry dish?
Make your cranberry sauce without tons of added sugar. I personally like the ones with stevia in them, because stevia doesn’t add useless calories and also can keep blood sugar in check.
On top of that, if you plan on using cranberry for other recipes (muffins, cakes, crumbles, etc.), you can just switch out ingredients like butter, milk/cream, gluten, and sugar with healthy alternatives. This will keep you happy and healthy.
4 – Pecan Pie:
Now in a way, this one is a stretch…I’m not going to say the version of pecan pie I’ll be talking about is healthy per se…but it’s definitely going to be a heck of a lot healthier than the traditional options.
Most pecan pies will have gluten based crusts, they’ll be loaded with butter, and they’ll have tons, and I do mean tons of sugar.
So that means if you switch out those unhealthy ingredients you’ve got a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal.
One of the biggest things to worry about is the pie filling.
Instead of using brown sugar and butter, you can substitute maple syrup or date syrup and ghee. Both maple syrup and date syrup are extremely sweet (meaning you can use less of it) and have a healthier affect on blood sugar. Ghee, as I’ve written about, is one of the healthiest substitutes for butter around. And, of course, to create a great gluten-free crust there are plenty of options.
5 – Turkey:
This should go without saying, but turkey is hands down one of the healthiest foods around.
Just last week I wrote about an incredibly important substance found in turkey that helps with sleep. You can see my article on tryptophan here.
Other reasons turkey’s so good is because it’s high in protein and contains a wonderful balance of heart healthy fats
Here’s what WHFoods writes:
Because most cuts of turkey provide valuable amounts of protein, turkey is often regarded as a high-protein food. Skinned turkey breast will provide the most protein per serving, at 34 grams in 4 ounces. But you will still get 31 grams from 4 ounces of turkey leg and 21 grams from 4 ounces of turkey thigh.In
In addition to protein, however, turkey is also rich in other nutrients. All B vitamins are present in turkey meat, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, biotin, and choline. (Because the biotin content of turkey meat is sensitive to the turkey’s dietary intake, the amount of this vitamin can vary greatly, with an approximate average of 0.8 micrograms in 4 ounces of turkey breast.) Turkey is an excellent for vitamin B3 (niacin) and provides over 13 milligram in 4 ounces, or over 80% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI). It’s also a very good source of vitamin B6, at 0.92 milligrams in 4 ounces (54% DRI). By providing 22% DRI for choline in 4 ounces, turkey also ranks as a good source of this B vitamin.
In terms of minerals, turkey is richest in selenium and provides over 60% of the DRI in a single 4-ounce serving. Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and iron are also provided by this food in noteworthy amounts.
All cuts of turkey contain omega-3 fats.
6 – Sweet potatoes:
One of my favorite foods (which also happens to be a thanksgiving staple) is the sweet potato. To see my article on sweet potato go here. The sweet potato contains an amazing amount of Vitamin A along with heart healthy fiber and anti-inflammatory compounds which make it great for Thanksgiving.
Now you might be thinking there’s not a chance in the world you can enjoy sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving and actually make them healthy.
But you can, which I’m sure you’d agree is pretty awesome.
The easiest way to make healthier options is to skip all the sugar and any milk or cream you’d normally mix in with your sweet potatoes.
To make them especially healthy then consider just keeping them simple and rustic. One of the easiest things to do is to cube the potatoes, coat lightly in olive oil and bake with a coating of cinnamon and rosemary. This is an easy way to make this holiday staple a healthier option
If you’re looking for a more traditional Thanksgiving take on sweet potatoes like I mentioned above, just nix the common “dangerous” ingredients and replace them with gluten free, dairy free, soy free ingredients and you’ll be all set.
Oh yeah, no extra sugar or marshmallows either
Are There Other Healthy Thanksgiving Options?
The answer is “Definitely”
The truth is most of the food you enjoy on turkey day is healthy so long as problematic ingredients aren’t included.
Sure, your favorite dishes might not be exactly like you remember them, but there are still plenty of alternatives that are going to satisfy you beyond belief. At the end of the day all you have to do is change things up and you’ll find a gravy boatload full of healthy foods to eat on Thanksgiving.
Hope you enjoy the holiday!