A Heart - Healthy Thanksgiving

The challenge this Thanksgiving was to remake our typical holiday recipes to be more healthy for my dad.  My mom spearheaded the effort and, thanks to her, my dad's plate on Thanksgiving will look (and taste!) a lot like everyone else's.  I interviewed her to find out which recipes she used in order to create a healthier feast. 


Q: Our family's Thanksgiving recipes aren't diet-friendly. How did you select your recipes? 

My dad and us girls

It can be daunting to branch out from old standbys, so what I tried to do is find a reputable low-fat recipe, and use that as my base.  Then, I compared it to our usual "family" recipe and made any low-fat/low-calorie enhancements to the base.  For example, I used Ellie Krieger's parmesan mashed potatoes recipe as my potato base.  Her recipe calls for buttermilk and skim milk, which are great low-fat additions to make the potatoes creamy.  Our family recipe relies heavily on butter, sour cream & garlic, so even though Ellie's version was creamy, it was missing some of that "home" taste.  As an enhancment, I left out the parmesan cheese and added one dollop of fat-free sour cream & one wedge of Laughing Cow Garlic & Herb cheese instead.  Also, I added a whole head of roasted garlic.  Doing so kept true to the low-fat principle of the recipe, but "customized" it so that it tasted like home.


Skyping with long distance relatives

Q: Are there any of our traditional recipes that you kicked to the curb in favor of a lower fat/lower calorie option?  Yes!  Ellie Krieger's honey roasted sweet potatoes!  We've made these a few times just for normal dinners and they are way better than the traditional sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top!


Q: Our usual stuffing recipe had 1 stick of butter in a single batch.  How on earth did you find a tasty substitute? I used the Cooking Light herbed bread stuffing with mushrooms and sausage and made substitutions to make the flavor more like our family's recipe.  For example, our family's recipe calls for 3/4 c of walnuts and 10 olives finely chopped.  Even though walnuts and olives do contain fat, it is mostly the healthier mono & poly-unsaturated fats.  Instead of adding more butter to the Cooking Light recipe, I blended up some walnuts & olives as a tasty "binding agent".  Also, I kept the turkey sausage, but swapped out the sweet Italian for a breakfast sausage variety.  Doing so kept the flavor more true to our family recipe without adding more calories/fat.  One of the other major enhancments I made was to replace one of the eggs in the recipe with egg substitute in an effort to keep the cholesterol down. 


Tara, me, Natalie

Q: Are you making pumpkin pie?  Yes, I combined two different recipes for the final product.  For the crust, I used a recipe from What Would Cathy Eat.com, which uses maple syrup, canola oil, and skim milk instead of butter.  For the filling, I used a recipe from All Recipes.com, which uses fat-free sweetened condensed milk and egg substitute.


Ready to dig in

Q: Any other words of advice for someone making a healthier Thanksgiving dinner?  Keep track of your substitutions and take good notes.  If you make a bunch of changes to a recipe, and it turns out well...you want to remember what you did!