Sunday, November 8, 2009

Guest Post: Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes

By: Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Culinary Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple,

The turkey table can be a real challenge if you are watching your waistline. This holiday harvest feast ranks in extra, unnecessary calories through mindless snacking and miscellaneous extras. By simply cutting back and replacing these extras with healthy substitutes, you can enjoy your turkey and fixings guilt free. With a little pre-planning and commitment to moderation, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to sabotage your healthy lifestyle. Here are a few of my tips for staying fit and healthy without depriving yourself.

Get Active.

Make fitness a family adventure; take a walk after dinner or play a game of tag football in the yard with the kids. Give a helping hand around the kitchen, offer to help set the table and clean the dishes after dinner.

Eat Breakfast.

Don’t save up on calories by skipping the most important meal of the day; be sure to eat a protein-packed breakfast that will hold you over until it’s time to dive into the turkey. Try a poached egg with whole grain toast or a bowl of oatmeal with chopped nuts and cinnamon; this will ensure you are not starving when you arrive at the feast.

Lighten Up.

It’s easy to experiment and create healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods with less fat, sugar and calories. Here are a few of my turkey tips for how you can reduce your caloric intake and become aware of your food consumption. All it takes is a pantry makeover of your family’s favorite recipes to reduce the ‘bad’ fats and empty calories, replacing them with healthy and nutritious fats and fiber-filled foods.

How to Navigate the Turkey Table- Thanksgiving Survival 101

Moderation is the key; if you cannot control the ingredients in your feast, simply limit yourself to a smaller portion as many side dishes are loaded with hidden fat and sugar.

  • Use chicken broth in lieu of butter in mashed potatoes
  • Instead of 1 whole egg, crack open 2 egg whites
  • Cook stuffing outside the turkey to lower the fat content
  • Substitute nonfat Greek plain yogurt for cream in green bean casserole
  • Ditch the sweet potato casserole and reach for a sweet potato (eat the skin too). These spuds are full of vitamins, fiber and flavor…drizzle with honey and top with Greek yogurt and dried cranberries.
  • Skip the butter on veggies and steam them with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of ground flax seeds.
  • Replace processed cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries; create your own unique chutney or salsa.
  • Opt for a turkey rub made from olive oil, thyme and sage instead of butter.
  • Replace white breads and white bread stuffing with whole grain bread and hearty side dishes such as a wild rice pilaf tossed with asparagus, apples and Dijon mustard.
  • Don’t swear off desserts, allow yourself a few bites and keep your portions in check. Choosing fruit is safe way to cure your sweet tooth instead of reaching for mom’s cheesecake.
  • Substitute agave nectar or stevia for refined sugar.
  • Opt for whole wheat flour over white.

Control Your Portions.

Be conscious about what you are putting into your mouth; sit back and take a sip of water or seltzer after a few bites to ensure you don’t overeat. Enjoy the harvest flavors; this is what Thanksgiving is all about, it’s more than just food, it’s about gratitude, family and community. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full, so savor your food, drink water in between bites and slow down. Give your mind a chance to catch up with your body and stop when you are full.

Overall, when Turkey day arrives, be sure to have a plan set; make smart choices, eat in moderation and keep moving. Most importantly, don’t forget that Thanksgiving is about much more than Aunt Suzie’s mashed potatoes and Grandma’s pumpkin pie. It’s about community, family and giving thanks, after all, these are the things that stay with us after the turkey leftovers have disappeared.

Thanksgiving Favorites


Roasted Root Veggies


  • 4 large onions
  • 5 large parsnips
  • 5 large carrots
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 Pinky Lady apples
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. star anise
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • Dash of sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Chop onions, parsnips, carrots, zucchini, butternut squash and apples into 1” thick chunks.
  • Transfer chopped vegetables and apples into a large roasting pan; drizzle with olive oil, add rosemary, cinnamon, star anise, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper; gently toss to ensure even coating.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until onions are translucent and all vegetables and apples are tender.

Mushroom Macadamia Nut Stuffing


  • 1 lb. macadamia nuts
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable broth
  • 3 cups onions, chopped
  • 2 cups leeks, chopped
  • 2 cups baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 slices whole grain bread, sliced into crouton-size pieces and toasted
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • ½ tsp. coriander


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • On a baking sheet, bake macadamia nuts and sesame seeds for 10 minutes, or until toasted and fragrant.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil and vegetable broth until hot. Add onions and let cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add leeks and mushrooms.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine macadamia nuts, coriander, sunflower seeds, mushroom mixture, cranberries, raisins and toasted bread cubes.
  • Stuff stuffing into the turkey or transfer to a casserole dish. If using as a turkey stuffing, bake according to turkey directions. If using as a casserole, bake for 30 minutes or until browned and completely cooked.

Pumpkin Orange Bread Pudding


  • 12 slices stale bread, crust removed and cut on the diagonal
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 cups milk
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp. ground flax seeds
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. all spice


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Create three layers of bread in an 8 x 8 baking pan sprayed with baking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk orange zest, juice, ground flax seeds, pumpkin, honey, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, butter, cinnamon, all spice and salt; mix well. Pour over the bread layers and let sit for 45 minutes.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until top is browned and edges and middle are set.
  • Serve warm.

    Turkey Leftovers?

    Try this Tasty Turkey Chili when you can’t face another turkey sandwich. Simply toss remaining turkey leftovers into this deliciously spicy chili. This recipe packs a hearty punch of protein with the addition of white beans and a powerful boost of antioxidants from the veggies.

    Tasty Turkey Chili


    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1 tsp. chili powder
    • 1 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1 cup broccoli, cooked and chopped
    • 1 can (19 ounces) white beans, rinsed and drained
    • 2 cups shredded leftover turkey
    • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
    • 1 tsp. honey
    • 1 tsp. brown sugar
    • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
    • 1 clove garlic, chopped
    • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • ½ tsp. sea salt
    • ½ tsp. black pepper
    • Optional Toppings: Nonfat Greek yogurt, low fat cheese, chives


    • In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook garlic, onion, broccoli and green pepper in olive oil for 7-9 minutes or until softened.
    • Slowly add turkey, beans, flour, chili powder, cumin, lemon juice, brown sugar, honey, salt and pepper; mix well. Add broth and continue to stir.
    • Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes.
    • Serve warm with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt, low fat cheese and chives.

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