One of the major issues most people face on Thanksgiving is the limited number of healthy food options. Sure, the “bird,” the centerpiece of traditional Thanksgiving feasts, is a high-protein option that is conducive to supporting your fat-blasting and muscle-building efforts; however, it pretty much all goes downhill from there. Yet with a few Thanksgiving food swaps, you can enjoy all the delicious flavor at a fraction of the calorie cost.
Coach Cristina’s Top 4 Thanksgiving Food Swaps
Cleaned Up Cranberry Sauce
My first “cleaned up” recipe is for cranberry sauce.
I might be alone in this one, but I have honestly never understood the fascination with canned cranberry sauce. I have memories of my mother standing in the kitchen violently shaking a jiggly roll of sugared cranberry substance into a bowl and slicing it into sections. I would promptly trade my brother my portion of cranberry sauce for his potatoes as soon as they hit the table.
I wanted to create a more appetizing version of this popular side dish and make it simple. So simple in fact that it takes only about 20 minutes from start to finish.
- 1 cup orange juice
- ½ cup honey
- 2 Tbsp orange zest
- One 12-ounce package of cranberries
- *If you can find fresh cranberries- even better
- Over medium heat, combine the first two ingredients (honey and orange juice), and stir until incorporated.
- Add the orange zest.
- Add the cranberries.
- Continue stirring until most of the berries have popped and the sauce has thickened quite a bit (It’ll continue to thicken as it cools).
Chef Tip: The cooking process in itself takes only about 10 – 15 minutes. You don’t have to continue stirring throughout the cooking process. Once everything is combined, I pretty much just let it simmer and do its thing.
Chef Tip: You could probably just throw everything into the saucepan all at once and save a few steps, but I always like to make sure each ingredient gets the spotlight for a quick second to make sure everything is incorporated evenly.
Chef Tip: Provided you store in an airtight container, you can make this dish ahead of time and keep it in your refrigerator for up to one week.
For my next trick (or #2 of my thanksgiving food swaps), I will turn your traditional green bean casserole into a lean green bean casserole.
It’s okay to laugh- cooking is supposed to be fun.
Lean Green Bean Casserole
- One 14-oz bag of frozen whole green beans (or about 4 cups fresh)
- One 8-oz package of mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium onion- finely chopped
- 1 tsp chopped/minced garlic
- 1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp corn starch
- *salt and pepper to taste
Topping (totally optional):
- 1 Tbsp dried onion
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Sautee’ garlic, mushrooms, and onions until they are translucent.
- Remove from heat and combine with thawed green beans (If using fresh green beans, remember to snip off the ends of the beans).
- Combine Greek yogurt and corn starch in a separate bowl. Once incorporated, add it to your green bean mixture.
- Pour into a baking dish. If using the topping, combine grated cheese, panko and dried onion and sprinkle on top of green bean mixture.
- Cook for approximately 35-40 minutes or until you notice the top turning a golden brown.
Chef Tip: This can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator to eliminate spending too much time in the kitchen, so you have more time with your loved ones on Thanksgiving.
Just by making some of these Thanksgiving food swaps from the traditional green bean casserole, which can pack up to 600 calories and 15 grams of fat per 1 cup serving, we were able to get this lean, green bean casserole down to approximately 100 calories and 3 grams of fat.
Let me know if your pickiest of eaters can tell the difference. I am betting they go back for seconds.
Coach Josh’s Turkey Chili
Besides turkey, there is one other thing synonymous with Thanksgiving Day: football. And, there’s one thing that goes hand-in-hand with football: chili. (Okay, beer actually goes hand-in-hand with football too, but please bear with me.) Let’s bring the best of both worlds together with a delicious, metabolism-boosting turkey chili recipe (my favorite of the Thanksgiving food swaps)!
- 1 ½ pounds ground white meat turkey
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (or grass-fed butter)
- One 14 ½ ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- One 14 ½ ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- One 14 ½ ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- One 29 ounce can diced tomatoes
- One 29 ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper, cayenne, or chili pepper flakes to taste
- Cook and stir the onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil (or butter) over medium heat until softened, about 6 minutes.
- Add the ground turkey and garlic. Cook the turkey until it’s just done, taking care not to overcook.
- Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 – 40 minutes (or longer), stirring occasionally.
Chef Tip: This recipe serves six, so you may have to adjust accordingly. Diced onion, jalapeño peppers, organic cheese, diced avocado, and cashew pieces all make great chili toppings.
Coach Cristina’s Healthy Stuffing
Another intricate piece of the Thanksgiving Day feast, the stuffing is typically not very friendly when it comes to your body-transformation efforts. Chockful of heavily processed, fast-digesting carbs and plenty of butter, this high-cal, high-carb, high-fat holiday treat has “Destination: Love Handles” written all over it.
Not this time, folks…
- 2 Tbsps of coconut oil (or grass-fed butter)
- 1 chopped onion
- 4 stalks of celery
- ½ cup chopped dried apricots
- ½ cup chopped dates
- ½ cup chopped cranberries
- ½ cup cooked wild rice or cooked oats (or half and half)
- ½ cup pecans
- ½ cup walnuts
- 2 eggs
- 1-2 cups of vegetable, chicken, or beef stock (or more/less if you want it drier/moister)
- Splash of white wine (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- A pinch or two of dried sage
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot and melt the coconut oil or butter. Add onion and celery and stir occasionally until they get soft and transparent.
- Add the chopped cranberries, dates, and apricots.
- Once it’s all soft, add the cooked rice (or cooked oats, or both), and throw in the eggs along with enough stock (plus a splash of wine) to hold it all together.
- Let it cook until it gets to a firmer, dryer consistency.
- Add seasoning and nuts to finish. Either stuff your bird, or serve as a side.
Now that your Thanksgiving food swaps are ready, you can relax and enjoy what Thanksgiving is really about—spending time with family, friends, and loved ones and feeling grateful for the abundance that’s all around you. Cheers!