A Healthful Feast

By Jeanelle D. Horcasitas

September 28, 2015 5 min read

Getting together for the holidays always guarantees family fun, good laughs and let's not forget delicious food. Thanksgiving is the holiday that truly initiates the big feasts and cheerful spirits. However, stuffing your face with some of those classic favorites can make your pants feel a bit tighter than they were before. It's no wonder that healthy eating and fitness are typically first on everyone's New Year's resolutions lists. Well, for those of you already feeling guilty about what's sure to be another heavy meal this Thanksgiving, here are a few tips and alternatives to lighten those carbs and calories. And no need to fret; these alternatives pack all the tasty flavors without the feeling of regret.

Before we jump into the dishes themselves, here are a few tips to help prevent overeating on this special occasion. The first is increasing your water intake. Drinking a lot of water before a meal helps diminish some of the hunger you feel, and as a result, you are less likely to overeat. In some cases, the Thanksgiving feast is the major meal of the entire day -- usually a linner (lunch/dinner). Therefore, not eating breakfast or snacks beforehand seriously heightens your hunger pains, and by the time the main course is ready to eat, you'll be attacking your food rather than savoring it. Thus, you should at least eat a small breakfast and have small snacks throughout the day.

Finally, and this might sound like a no-brainer, but chew your food! If you've starved yourself for this one meal, you're less likely to chew your food properly, and this could lead to uncomfortable digestion, not enjoying the meal to the fullest and, in severe cases, choking. So, as Mom always said: Chew your food!

Now, these are just a few tips to help prevent overeating at Thanksgiving. There are plenty of alternative guilt-free dishes to cook, as well.

Thanksgiving side dishes are great but also misleading. Why? Well, these "side" dishes take up the majority of our plate. That's why we don't consider it wrong to take a few servings of each delectable side dish presented at the table. The No. 1 culprit: mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes and gravy is probably one of the most loved dishes next to the turkey. It's fluffy whipped goodness with melted butter and gravy drizzled on top is utterly mouth-watering. Who could resist? And how could anyone possibly lighten up something already so perfect? Well, you can, and don't worry; it's just as amazing.

The lighter alternative is cauliflower "mashed potatoes." This is the ultimate guilt-free option and looks like the real thing! It's healthy, it's light, and it's just as yummy! Whole Foods Market's website has an extremely easy recipe online that you can follow, with just 110 calories to show for it!

The green-bean casserole is another favorite. The easiest recipe to follow is found on the Campbell's French onion box; however, there is a healthier way to make this delicious dish. In fact, EatingWell offers a great 160-calorie alternative that swaps out many of the heavy creams for lighter options such as low-fat milk, whole-wheat breadcrumbs and freshly sliced onion.

Additionally, candied yams make up a sugary-sweet side dish topped with melted marshmallows and sprinkled with brown sugar that is simply irresistible. However, this sweet-potato classic can be transformed into something healthier and different: a creamy sweet-potato soup. The website Greatist offers a quick recipe that requires a bit of boiling, blending and throwing in a few key ingredients. Because sweet potatoes possess a soft texture, the soup tastes creamy already, and no milk or other creamy products are necessary.

Although these are just a few examples of side dishes that can be lightened up, I guarantee there is some sort of alternative recipe online that you can find to lighten any dish that you desire.

Now it's time for the main attraction: the turkey. If you are interested in doing away with meat altogether but still want the same taste, the common option is Tofurky, Turtle Island Foods' vegetarian whole turkey. However, if you just want to switch it up, there are definitely alternatives both for carnivores and herbivores. Major foodie sites such as Bon Appetite suggest switching the turkey to duck, goose or pheasant. However, sites such as Foodvisors suggest vegetarian options such as a vegetable lasagna or eggplant parmigiana.

Ultimately, the choice is yours depending on how healthy you want your Thanksgiving to be. Thus, take your pick from some of these healthy alternatives, and be reassured that this Thanksgiving feast won't leave you feeling guilty and stuffed.

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