Eat to Evolve - Blog Post
November 21, 2019

Thanksgiving Eats and Cheats

Next week is the most wonderful food holiday of the year. Thanksgiving brings a sometimes literal cornucopia of delicious food available for the eating. It can be hard when looking at that spread to maintain healthy eating. Instead of depriving yourself of Aunt Laura’s special desserts and Grandma’s homemade rolls, you can practice mindful eating and enjoy the holiday guilt free.

Thanksgiving meals are actually pretty paleo friendly with either some simple tweaks to favorite dishes or by picking your absolute favorite items to indulge in, while focusing on the healthier choices on the table. Roasted turkey and a baked ham (without a super sweet sugar glaze) are actually quite good lean meats that can be the focus of any healthy Thanksgiving meal. Have a good serving of that meat and then scan the sides to see what will work the best with your lifestyle.

Healthy Thanksgiving sides

Roasted Brussels sprouts are becoming a common Thanksgiving side dish and those are a perfect choice. If your family hasn’t tried them yet, be the one who brings that dish to the gathering. Add some crisp bacon and you’ll have a dish everyone looks forward to. Look for other roasted veggies like squash, zucchini or turnips. Or create a hash with a variety of roasted fall vegetables. This can be beautifully colorful with oranges and yellows and greens making it stand out for both presentation and taste.

Mashed potatoes catching your eye? There’s nothing wrong with a side of mashed white potatoes. They are full of good vitamins like B6 and C, plus potassium and iron, just take it easy and when making them be mindful of the amounts of cream, milk or butter that are added. Just a boiled, mashed white potato with some salt and pepper is delicious and a healthy choice. You can also try mashed cauliflower for a new and yummy side, add some garlic and/or some clarified butter and you’ve got a nutritious dish that everyone will love.

Sweet potatoes are another perfectly fine food to enjoy during Thanksgiving. But if Mom is making her sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows, either take a small helping or create a newer version with roasted sweet potatoes, mashed with a bit of maple syrup and topped with some pecans. Still amazing, but much more healthy. Thinking about cranberries? That seasonal fruit is actually quite full of healthy things like vitamins C, E and K and lots of fiber. The problem comes with their natural tartness and how recipes often called for lots of added sugar. Instead, try sweetening with orange juice and creating a chutney instead of a jelly.

What should you do about Desserts?

When you get to dessert take a breath. It’s ok to treat yourself to some homemade delicious pie. Pumpkin and pecan pies are actually some of the easiest recipes where simple adjustments can make a world of difference in their nutrition. Pumpkin and pecans as a whole are perfectly paleo. It’s just a matter of what is added to them to create dessert. Try making your pie crust with crushed nuts, cinnamon and clarified butter. So good and a much better choice than processed white flour crusts. You can also sweeten your pecan pie with maple syrup instead of corn syrup. That can work with pumpkin pie too, or just add less sugar. 

Best way to enjoy Thanksgiving while staying healthy

Clearly Thanksgiving can and should be a time to celebrate cooking and enjoying wonderful food. Don’t fret about having this celebration with your family and friends, worrying that one weekend will derail your healthy eating lifestyle. It’s ok to enjoy your favorite Thanksgiving foods. Make some small healthier tweaks when you can. Choose more veggies and lean meats when building your plate. And have one of Grandma’s rolls or a slice of your sister’s pecan pie. Your healthy eating 90% of the time gives you wiggle room to indulge a bit on special occasions. The main mindset is to see Thanksgiving as a once a year celebration and not something that ruined your healthy lifestyle. Enjoy the holiday and then go right back to eating your healthy foods. Balance is the key.

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