Contributed by Debby Pettita, Club Julian Wellness Director

Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks.  And even though 2020 has been a struggle to say the least, I’m sure we all have something to be thankful for.  Thanksgiving is also an American holiday centered largely around food, and LOTS of it!  But there is really no reason to feel that you need to miss out on any of your favorite dishes because of your fitness goals.  Most of the traditional thanksgiving dinner fare can be very healthy actually, if prepared in a smart, health conscious way.

A few examples would include:

Sweet Potato Casserole:  Sweet potatoes are one of healthiest vegetables on the table!  They are chock full of Vitamins A, C, E, B6, B5, Potassium as well as Soluble Fiber, which helps to reduce blood sugar spikes and slows the sugar absorption rate.  But rather than topping with marshmallows, choose a nut such as pecans that also have nutritional value, or maybe an oat crumble instead.

Stuffing:  Start by accepting the fact that you need bread to make stuffing! But instead of using white sandwich bread, consider a hearty bread that contains nutritious ingredients like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, whole grain, etc.  And when preparing your stuffing, sauté the vegetables that you are using (onion, celery, mushrooms) in low-sodium chicken or turkey stock.  It will add flavor without adding fat.

Mashed Potatoes:   Mashed potatoes are a staple on the Thanksgiving Dinner table.  But while potatoes are full of vitamins and potassium, much of the nutritional value is in the peel – which is a rich source of iron.  Bake or boil your potatoes with the skin on; keep them on when you mash ‘em up!  Season with some salt, pepper, and the low-sodium stock or skim milk rather than cream and butter.  Your guests can add their own butter if they wish.

Gravy:  When making homemade gravy, a great tool to use is a fat separator cup.  This can be purchased at any store that sells kitchen items (Walmart, Target, etc.). This way you’ll be preparing the gravy with the turkey stock and not the fat from the skin.  To thicken the gravy, try using corn starch rather than flour to save on some calories!

Green Bean Casserole:  Fresh green beans or canned are always a very healthy vegetable choice.  They are low in calories, and high in Vitamin C which helps to boost the immune system. If prepared with a low-fat, low-sodium Cream of Mushroom soup, it can be a great addition to any Thanksgiving dinner!

And now for DESSERT…. 

Full disclosure: Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie and Apple Pie have their pros and cons!  

Although pumpkins, apples, and pecans all fall into the Healthy & Nutritious category, the crust is usually the calorie culprit.  But, hey, what’s pie without the crust??

Most traditional crusts are made with flour, butter/shortening, salt & water.  I know, sounds bad right?   If you are planning to make an Apple Pie, do up a single crust pie (bottom only) with an oat and nut crumble on top. You can also make a crustless bottom and simply add a crust to the top of the pie.  Or better yet, ditch the pie and make an apple brown betty, no crust just crumble!

Pecan Pie is just plain fattening! Made with lots of corn syrup and butter, not only is it high in carbs and sugar, but it’s high in fat.  One alternative would be to make individual tarts in a mini muffin pan.  This way the serving size is more easily controlled.  You just need to be mindful of monitoring the number of tarts that you have!  LOL!

Pumpkin Pie is not as bad as most people think.  It’s a single crust pie, filled with nutritious pumpkin, healthy spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger) and is very low calorie.  Watch the amount of crust and whipped cream you put on the pie though!

I hope these tips help in making your Thanksgiving holiday a happy and healthy one this year.  Most important is to give thanks for what you have.  So forgive yourself for ONE day knowing that you’ll jump right back into your healthy lifestyle and workout routine on Friday!  We’re open at 6:00 AM by the way.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Training Staff at Club Julian 24-Hour Fitness!  Stay safe!