Celebrate Thanksgiving on a lighter note

Published on November 27, 2013

Updated on February 13, 2018

The holidays are generally a fairly indulgent time of year. While giving up some of your favorites can be difficult, navigate this year’s Thanksgiving with some helpful ideas from the Prevent Cancer Foundation and wellness expert Dr. Ann. Stay healthy and substitute some of those heavy dishes with these lighter alternatives.

Original: Mashed potatoes
Dr. Ann refers to mashed potatoes and other starchy foods made from white flour as the “Great White Hazards.” This holiday favorite has a tendency to increase appetite while delivering little, if no nutritional value. Traditionally mashed potatoes are also made with milk, cream, butter or all of the above—raising sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat levels.

Alternative: Thyme mashed sweet potatoes
The natural sugars in sweet potatoes provide a healthy source of energy and keep blood sugar levels steady. This vitamin-rich vegetable also contains carotenoids, which are powerful anti-oxidants that may help protect the body against cancer. Some research has shown that people who consume carotenoid-rich food are less likely to get certain types of cancer or experience a reoccurrence of the disease. Try this colorful and healthy side at your table this year—the true flavor of the sweet potato is exemplified in this simple but tasty dish. Greek yogurt gives a creaminess to the potatoes, while thyme provides an extra flavor boost.

Original: Stuffing
Traditional stuffing, especially the kind that comes from a box, is not an especially healthy Thanksgiving food. While providing virtually no nutritional value, its only purpose at the dinner table is keeping you and the turkey “stuffed.” Luckily, stuffing can be easily substituted with a variety of alternatives that aren’t part of the “Great White Hazards.”

Alternative: Brown Rice with Nuts, Dried Fruit & Fresh Herbs
Brown rice is an example of a complex carbohydrate, and contains a good amount of dietary fiber while also touting a low glycemic index (keeping blood sugar levels balanced). While providing other nutrients such as iron, zinc, thiamin, niacin, magnesium and vitamin B-6, brown rice also has a unique chewy texture and slightly nutty taste—making it a great substitute for traditional stuffing! This recipe uses a good mix of dried fruit, nuts and herbs that make it super stuffed with flavor.

Original: Corn Pudding
One of the most decadent of the Thanksgiving favorites, reading a corn pudding recipe is highly reminiscent of watching a Paula Deen cooking show. This highly unhealthy dish calls for butter, sour cream, cheese, creamed corn and boxed corn muffin mix (which often contains lard). High in saturated fat and sodium, this southern comfort food is not such a delight on the waistline.

Alternative: Corn and Bell Pepper Sauté
Stick to the basics with this super quick sauté. Corn on its own is a healthy food that is high in fiber, which is critical in preventing colon cancer (the third most prevalent type of cancer in the U.S. for both men and women). Peppers are also extremely healthy, providing a plethora of vitamins and cancer fighting antioxidants, while providing a low calorie food. This easy-to-prepare dish is great for cooking novices and experienced chefs alike. Those who prefer their dishes with a stronger south of the border flavor can easily substitute spicier peppers. This sauté can be eaten on its own or used as a unique nontraditional topping for other foods.

Original: Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole is probably one of the most perennial favorites at any holiday meal, and easily the most recognizable. While green beans on their own are a very healthy nutrient-filled vegetable, in this dish they are unfortunately usually swimming in processed condensed cream soup and topped with French fried onions. This negates any nutritional value of the dish, and is not a good addition on top of everything else usually served during the holidays.

Alternative: Cream Spinach
There are many ways to make green bean casserole healthier, either by making your own sauce with low fat ingredients, skipping the fried onion topping, or selecting fresh beans rather than canned. Another great alternative is Dr. Ann’s cream spinach dish, which provides that tasty creamy casserole you crave at the dinner table without the calories or guilt. Greek yogurt and feta are used instead of cream or milk to create a unique and tasty alternative to the traditional casserole.

We wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving this year. It is the small day-to-day choices like eating right, staying active and getting regular medical screenings that help Stop Cancer Before It Starts!

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