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Your Guide to Healthier Thanksgiving Food

During Thanksgiving, diets tend to trot out the door and that so-called "holiday weight" becomes all too familiar and often stays on. This year, though, break the blame game of Thanksgiving overindulgences with these healthy recipes!

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From the turkey breast to cranberry sauce to pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving brings a bounty of food. While these foods can certainly be enjoyed, there are ways to ensure a healthy and satisfying Thanksgiving meal.

Use this guide for healthier Thanksgiving food, including recipes, healthy alternatives, and eating tips.

Your Guide to Healthier Thanksgiving Food

Most traditional Thanksgiving dishes are filled with calories from fat and sugar. So it is understandable how the rich flavors lead to overeating. However, healthified meals can still be flavorful and desirable without packing on unwanted calories.

Because when meals are rich in fiber, protein, and nutrients, satiety arises and the risk of overeating reduces. Appetizing, yet healthy Thanksgiving food recipes include a juicy baked turkey and sweet potato-pecan casserole.

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Pear and Blue Cheese and Spinach Pomegranate Salads
Though enjoying a salad during Thanksgiving may seem undesirable, these salad recipes may just change your mind...

This pear and blue cheese salad is not only packed with heart-healthy ingredients, but overflowing with flavor. And this spinach pomegranate salad will have you craving more without even realize you are loading up on fiber and nutrients!

Additionally, salad ingredients can be pre-chopped the night before and provide easy assembly on Thanksgiving. They can also be customized to tailor preferences.

Juicy Baked Turkey
Skip the fryer and bake your turkey this year to lessen total fat. With fat content reduced, baked turkey acts as a lean protein source.

This juicy Thanksgiving turkey is seasoned with fresh herbs, including parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, and lemon pepper. Its rich flavor is sure to please all this Thanksgiving.

Protein and Fiber-Packed Mashed Potatoes
Traditional, silky mashed potatoes are often filled with tons of butter and salt. Additionally, adding a dollop or two of plain Greek yogurt can offer protein to a normally starchy side dish.

Leaving the skin on the potato provides a significant source of fiber. Also cut overall carb and calorie content by using steamed cauliflower.

Glazed Carrots and Turnips
Incorporating veggies into the Thanksgiving meal offers additional nutrients and fiber. But not the ones overtaken with gobs of butter and other unnecessary ingredients…

This glazed carrots and turnips recipe uses a mere 2 teaspoons of butter in the entire recipe. It also easy and quick, taking only 30 minutes total to prepare and cook.

Truly, eating veggies will not feel like a chore on Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole
Traditional sweet potato casserole is often laden in sugar and calories. However, this sweet potato-pecan casserole takes a healthful spin by reducing sugar content and offering healthy fats from pecans.

Along with its rich flavor and nutrients, one of the greatest perks is the dish can be prepared ahead of time. This offers more time to spend with loved ones on Thanksgiving Day!

Pumpkin Pie and Apple Crisps
This healthy pumpkin pie utilizes wheat flour and Greek yogurt, the combination supplying additional fiber and protein content. Other than pure maple syrup (only one teaspoon), the recipe is essentially absent of added sugars.

For a gluten-free option, prepare these pumpkin pie tartlets, using heart healthy almond flour as the main crust ingredient. Also being perfectly portioned, they moderate overall calorie content.

This apple walnut crisp recipe is also a fall favorite, featuring warm apples and spices. And not to mention, each slice contains a mere 160 calories!

For additional healthy, Thanksgiving options, check out the recipes featured on the official pages of the Food Network and Redbook Magazine!

Healthy Thanksgiving Tips

In addition to preparing healthy recipes, use these tips to enjoy Thanksgiving without an ounce of guilt!

Start with Breakfast
Breakfast tends to go unnoticed on Thanksgiving, predominantly to "save room" for the main event. However, preparing and consuming a healthy breakfast can reduce the risk of overeating at the Thanksgiving meal.

A well-balanced breakfast should consist of protein, healthy fat, and fiber to offer satiety for a prolonged period of time. And these high-protein, low-carb breakfast ideas are ones you do not want to miss. There are also quick and make ahead options to ease the chaos of a busy Thanksgiving morning.

Eat Slow
The excitement of Thanksgiving food may lead to quick eating, only to head back into the kitchen for a second plate. But instead of not just overeating, but quickly overeating, slow down.

Slowing down when eating allows time for the stomach and brain to signal the "I'm full" response. This ultimately lessens the opportunity to further binge in unnecessary calories.

Tips to eat slowly include chewing food thoroughly and setting the fork down between bites. Sipping on water throughout the meal can also down the eating process and aid in digestion.

Serve Yourself on Small Plates
Plates smaller in size can help keep both portions and calories in check. Additionally, plating your own meal can further reduce the likelihood of overeating on large portions.

When plating, try to always take a veggie and pair with a protein source, including juicy turkey and green beans. Also enjoy rich desserts on small plates, along with practicing the concept of mindful eating.

Eat Mindfully
Mindful eating is an increasing approach to reduce the risk of overeating and binges along with successful weight loss. The practice is essentially a nonjudgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations while eating.

Mindful eating strips down the stigma of "unhealthy" or "bad" foods and promotes the notion of "all foods fit." Individuals are encouraged to focus on internal hunger and satiety cues, as well as external motivators that drive behaviors to foods.

Recognizing the smells, flavors, and textures of foods is a strong foundation of mindful eating. This helps cultivate and increase appreciation towards food. It also surfaces awareness of thoughts and emotions experienced at meal time, including during Thanksgiving dinner!

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on April 12, 2019.

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