by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac

Planning a healthy Thanksgiving is easy and affordable. When we think of this feast day, we think of foods laden with rich gravies, sugar filled desserts and heavy dressings. I offer up some “alternative answers” and finds substitutes for these Thanksgiving table favorites that are high in processed sugar, saturated fats and cholesterol.

Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Turkey

1 whole turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
6 to 8 garlic cloves
2 large lemons, halved
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
Cut six to eight small slits in turkey skin insert garlic between the skin and meat. Squeeze two lemon halves inside the turkey and leave them inside. Squeeze remaining lemon over outside of turkey. Spray the turkey with nonstick cooking spray; sprinkle with rosemary and sage. Place on a rack in a roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for 1 hour. Cover and bake 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours longer or until a meat thermometer reads 185 degrees F. Serving: 8-10.


Super Squash Soup

1 red onion chopped fine
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups pumpkin puree
pinch of finely chopped ginger
dash of fat free milk or milk alternative (soy, rice, almond)
pinch of cinnamon
Prepare: Saute onions until tender. Add chicken stock and pumpkin puree and ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add milk (alternative) and cinnamon.


Homemade Gravy without the fat

You can make gravy from your turkey drippings but only use the drippings that are not fatty. You can see the fat floating on the top of the drippings. Skim that fat off with a table spoon before you make your gravy. After you skim off the fat on the turkey drippings then boil the drippings and add a cup of water mixed with corn starch. Mix the ingredients until they are thick like gravy.

Low Fat Gravy

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 cups reduced-sodium fat-free beef or chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch pepper
Prepare: In a saucepan, saute onion, mushrooms and parsley in 1/4 cup broth until vegetables are tender. Combine cornstarch, pepper and 1/2 cup of broth; stir until smooth. Add to pan with the remaining broth. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally: boil for 2 minutes. Serving: 2 cups.


Orange Zest Mashed Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a wonderful low calorie, low glycemic alternative to white potatoes when prepared properly.

4 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup hot milk (or milk alternative such as soy, almond, rice or fat free milk)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp orange zest
Prepare: cook sweet potatoes until tender. Peel and transfer to bowl. Stir in 1 cup pumpkin puree. Mash with fork until smooth. Stir in milk and splash in olive oil. Add orange zest and serve. Serves 6-8.


Fresh Fruit Compote

Fresh fruit is great part of any Thanksgiving meal. Fruit represents abundance and it is a great source of vitamins and fiber. Consider melons, grapefruit, oranges, apples, cherries, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or any fruit you would like and cut them into bite size pieces. Mix them all together to make a tasty fruit salad. You can cut and squeeze one lemon over the fruit. As an addition, add dried cranberries, acai berries or a handful of chopped walnuts, almond slivers or mini carob bits.


Fat Free Pumpkin Pie

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup dry bread crumbs

Filling Ingredients:
1 small Sugar pumpkin (2 lbs. size)
1 1/2 cup Pumpkin, canned
4 Egg whites
2/3 cup Sugar (or sugar alternative such as agave or stevia)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ginger
1 teaspoon Finely grated fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 1/4 cup Fat free evaporated milk
Crust Preparation: Spray 9″ pie plate with vegetable cooking spray. Scatter crumbs evenly pressing into plate. Spray crumbs with spray & bake crust at 350 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes until dry and lightly brown. Cool on rack.

Filling Preparation: If using fresh pumpkin, rinse, stem, and halve pumpkin. Scrape out the seeds and cut into 2″ chunks. Using paring knife, remove skin & place pumpkin in large baking dish. Add 1/2 c water & cover dish tightly with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for on hour, until soft, checking to make sure that water has not evaporated, adding more if needed. Cool and puree pumpkin in food processor.

Scrape cooked fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin into bowl then whisk in egg whites. Whisk in sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg & evaporated milk, one ingredient at a time, whisking smooth between each addition.

Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 350 degree F until filling is set, 1 hour. Cool on rack. Refrigerate if prepared more than a few hours in advance of serving. Serving:6-8

A Word About Eating

Yes, it is a holiday but that does not mean you have to go into an uncontrollable spiral! Be aware of your calorie intake. If you are unsure about the calories in your meal, I feel it is essential to learn this amazing tool for effective weight loss. Record in your ledger or journal the calories of everything you put in your mouth for one week. Be in tune to the total calories you consume daily, and make an effort to replace high-fat foods with low-calorie ones like vegetables and fruits.

Discipline applies to any matter in life. I cannot stress enough how discipline is the second most important aspect in weight control or achieving any kind of success in your life! It is the secret to the most effective, efficient and well strategic plan you can give yourself! Being successful, losing weight, maintaining relationships are not tasks that come easy for most people. They are all things we must work hard on creating, keeping and maintaining! (Why do you think diet plans have *Results not typical with an asterisks? Because most people have a lack of discipline). You probably already have some forms of discipline in your life. You pay your bills by a certain time, you show up for work every day, often plan your finances, your meals or walk your dog. These are all disciplines in your life already. Some of us need a little more in our lives than others. The whole idea with these suggestions is to show you just how much you are eating, how many calories you are consuming and to get you into a pattern, which will set you up for great success!

Portion control does not have to go out the window on the holiday. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. As a dancer and someone who always worked out, I felt I had my portioning under control. I eventually learned why I would get that bloated and discomfort feeling after eating. It was my portion size. Sure I was active and exercising but as I aged and my metabolism slowed, my portions were not changing with the rest of me! Once I understood the discipline behind this, it changed my life!

If it all goes out the window in wild abandon, please, forego the guilt and take solace that although you had one day of calorie binging, it is better than doing this everyday. Guilt has never served anyone in any capacity. Making these tips a lifestyle, over time, is the key.

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