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Top 5 Thanksgiving Sides That Won't Pack on the Pounds

Thanksgiving dinner doesn't have to be completely unhealthy. See more pictures of Thanksgiving turkeys.
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Food. Family. Food. Football. Food. The Thanksgiving Day itinerary circles back to one thing as often as possible: eating. You might argue that one day of stuffing your belly full of sweet potato casserole and corn pudding never hurt anyone. The problem is that sometimes this one-day event triggers an entire season of gluttony. Is it possible to eat healthy on turkey day?

Sure it is. With a few simple alterations and substitutions, you can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal -- and you may not even have to unbutton your pants afterward. Read on for five healthy Thanksgiving side dishes!

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Mashed potatoes are delicious, but they're also loaded with calories, so try a broccoli-potato puree instead. You'll lose the excess butter and cream found in traditional mashed potatoes, subtract calories, and add color and nutrition. This puree is also quite easy to make.

Here's what to do: Cook 1 pound of chopped broccoli, a half pound of peeled and diced russet potatoes, and a couple of scallions in simmering water until tender. Drain -- but reserve some of the cooking liquid. In a food processor, combine the veggies and potatoes, along with some salt, pepper, butter and lemon juice to taste. A tablespoon or so of butter should suffice. Pulse it all together until it reaches a whipped consistency and serve immediately. You can even try substituting the broccoli with cooked spinach or kale for increased vitamins.

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Use healthy ingredients for your stuffing to cut calories and fat.
Use healthy ingredients for your stuffing to cut calories and fat.
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Instead of a traditional fat-filled stuffing, try this alternate version using lower-calorie ingredients. You can probably use your regular recipe -- just substitute some ingredients for lighter ones. For the bread, try a "light" bread, like Weight Watchers brand. Instead of the fatty drippings from the bottom of the turkey pan, use light chicken or vegetable broth (also a good side for your vegetarian friends). Use light butter instead of full fat butter. Don't forget chopped apples, onion, celery, and herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme. Mix in an egg substitute (available in low-cal or vegan versions) to hold it all together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake and enjoy!

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Squash is a classic autumn dish, so why not incorporate it into your Thanksgiving feast? You might be intimidated by the spaghetti squash at first -- it's big, heavy and nearly impossible to cut in half. However, you can bake it whole until it's soft enough to pierce with a paring knife. Then, simply open it up with a knife, scoop out the seeds, and use a fork to remove the soft, tasty strands of squash. You can add flavor to the squash with some onions sautéed in a bit of olive oil, salt, and maybe a little bit of lemon. This dish is low in calories and is good for you; it's rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, B and C.

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Pumpkin soup is a healthy first course for Thanksgiving dinner.
Pumpkin soup is a healthy first course for Thanksgiving dinner.
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Pumpkin is another classic fall flavor. Besides pie, it also makes a tasty soup. You can use canned pumpkin, too, to make it easier. Careful, though -- make sure you buy pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling! This soup contains low-fat chicken broth instead of full-fat, and carrots and carrot juice for flavor and health. The great thing about soup is that you can play with the measurements and amounts, adjusting them to how many people you're serving.

Rounded out with some onions, cumin, garlic, and even cinnamon, your guests will love this as a first course and never realize that there's no cream or butter in it. Just sauté your onions, garlic and carrots with a bit of olive oil until soft, add spices and cook for about a minute. Next, add your broth, carrot juice and pumpkin and combine. Cook covered for about 15 minutes and then serve. For extra flavor and unexpected crunch, top each bowl with a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds.

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Most people will tell you that it simply doesn't feel like Thanksgiving without gravy. We agree. However, it is possible to make a gravy that isn't as loaded with fat as the traditional homemade gravy. And the apple taste gives this gravy a nice, crisp, fall feeling. While the turkey is resting outside of the pan, skim off all the fat that you can from the drippings. In a small bowl, whisk together a half-cup of low-fat chicken or vegetable broth with three tablespoons of flour until smooth. Set your roasting pan on your stove burners to get some heat going, and add 1 1/4 cups apple cider, and two tablespoons apple cider vinegar to pan the juices. Bring to a boil, and add 3 1/2 cups of your broth. Boil until the liquid reduces by half, and then whisk in the flour mixture to thicken. Run through a sieve to remove any solid, and then salt and pepper to taste. Delicious, and only about 30 calories per three-tablespoon serving.

For more tips on eating and cooking healthy, check out the links on the next page.

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Sources

  • "Broccoli-Potato Puree." ReadersDigest.com. 2010. (Sept. 19, 2010) http://www.rd.com/your-america-inspiring-people-and-stories/vegetable-recipes-broccolipotato-puree/article105357.html
  • "Cider Gravy." EatingWell.com. November/December 2007. (Sept. 19, 2010) http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/cider_gravy.html
  • Hair, Jaden. "How to Bake Spaghetti Squash." Tasty Kitchen. Feb. 19, 2010. (Sept. 19, 2010) http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen-blog/2010/02/how-to-bake-spaghetti-squash/
  • "Low Calorie Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe." LaaLoosh.com. Nov. 20, 2009. (Sept. 19, 2010) http://www.laaloosh.com/2009/11/20/low-calorie-thanksgiving-stuffing-recipe/
  • "Spiced Pumpkin Soup." Good Housekeeping. 2010. (Sept. 19, 2010) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/spiced-pumpkin-soup-2734

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