Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes & Calorie Cuts (Have your pie and eat it too!)

Recipes

I am ALL about practicing balance in your life, especially when it comes to food and fitness.

I know as a competitor there have been times where I can fully enjoy the “real deal” holiday meal, but also times where I was on a very restricted nutritional plan and couldn’t have any “extras.”

I’m  going to write these recipes as if you’re on a completely restricted diet, just to show how easy it can be to make simple and delicious swaps for your favorite Thanksgiving comfort foods, BUT I encourage you to make adjustments and swaps here and there depending on your goals!

It always surprises me when people opt for the full-fat, full-sugar extra everything version of a dish when there are some low calorie swaps that you totally wouldn’t notice the difference, why not save the calories where you can’t miss them and save the real deal dish for the ones you can’t fake?!

First things first:

Turkey

Well, this part’s easy- a turkeys a turkey and really shouldn’t be something that’s worried about as it’s an amazing lean source of protein. But, if you’re watching your intake you might try opting for brining and baking your turkey v.s. covering it in butter and oil and potentially deep-frying it (p.s. have you ever had deep-fried turkey? It’s dry and not worth it!)

Add LOTS of flavor with fresh lemon and herbs, remove the skin to cut back on the fat, & opt for white meat v.s. brown if you want to lower your fat intake. If you find white meat is too dry and end up covering it in gravy or sauce then opt for the dark meat and enjoy that instead.

Fill up on lots of turkey before heading for your sides- this will help control your appetite and slow you down!

Mashed Potatoes 

You have a couple of options here- if you want the REAL potato deal cut the calories by using fat-free cream cheese and/or sour cream and Molly McButter instead of full fat cream/cream cheese and I swear you won’t miss it.  Whip the mashed potatoes with beaters and you will get the same creamy dreamy potatoes you love.

BUT if you want a real diet-friendly version click here for my recipe for cauliflower mash– I love this as a low carb, dairy-free option and you can play around with it, try adding sweet potatoes or parsnips for a different spin on it!

Cranberry Sauce 

This one is so easy. PLEASE do me a favor and don’t buy canned cranberry sauce, it’s loaded with sugar that you WON’T miss. I don’t care if you’re “on a diet” or not, it’s totally not necessary, especially when making your own is so easy!

Ingredients: 

1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries

Splenda (or 0 calorie sweetener of your choice)

Salt

Lemon juice

Optional: cinnamon, orange zest, etc.

Method:

Throw the cranberries into a sauce pan (if using fresh add a few tbsp of water), cook until soft if from frozen or until they burst if fresh. Add 0 calorie sweetener of your choice, lemon juice, & seasoning to taste. The sauce will naturally thicken- it’s done when it’s as thick as you like it (if you over-reduce it add more water), I like to mash mine with a fork as I cook it so it’s got pieces of cranberries through out. Make sure you keep stirring as it cooks so the bottom doesn’t burn!

Pumpkin Pie 

Okay, so this is less of an “official recipe” and more of a list of ideas of how you can make your pie fit your diet

First of all, make sure you’re buying 100% pumpkin PUREE, not pumpkin pie filling!

The Crust:

Here’s where you can save a tonne of extra calories and carbs that you won’t miss.

Instead of opting for a classic pie crust try using a combination of your favorite almonds, coconut, coconut flour, coconut oil, and almond butter. My favorite is ground almonds (grind your own or purchase almond four) with coconut oil, salt, and Splenda- so simple and it actually enhances the flavor of the pie more than a traditional crust in my opinion!

It’s definitely more of a “crumble” type crust v.s. your traditional pie crust, but it will satisfy your crust cravings for sure.

Use just enough oil to make the almond flour like a wet sand, sweeten to your preference, and pack down in the bottom of your pie pan, PACK it, this will help hold it together more. If you want a more traditional crust texture I recommend adding coconut flour, this will help give it a bit more structure v.s. the almond flour only option- play with the quantities of oil and add a bit of your favorite dairy-free milk (I prefer cashew) if you use coconut flour. Bake until golden!

The Filling:

Traditional: For a totally “clean” filling sub your sugar for Splenda (it measures cup for cup like sugar so you can make this work with any traditional pumpkin pie recipe, why not save the sugar?!), swap your dairy milk for cashew milk, and you’ve already cut the calories in half.

Many traditional pumpkin pie recipes only require pumpkin puree, eggs, milk, and sugar, so this is an easy swap. If you’re REALLY watching your nutrition you can make a flavor packed filling with just pumpkin, Splenda, and pumpkin pie spice (or a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg) so you get all the pumpkin pie flavors without the calories!

Cheese Cake: I love a pumpkin pie cheesecake, especially because it’s so easy to make a diet-friendly version!

I recommend playing around with the quantities based on what texture you like, but you can make a KILLER pumpkin cheese cake with a combination of: fat-free cream cheese, fat-free Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, 0 calorie sweetener, and pumpkin pie spice!

Beat it all together, cover your crust with the filling, and chill until it’s time to serve.

SO simple and if you serve it on top of the almond flour crust, drool!

Another option is to serve it as a “trifle” or deconstructed-type cheesecake by making the almond flour/coconut oil combo into more of a crumble and sprinkling it on top of individual dishes of the pumpkin cheesecake filling!

That’s what I did here and topped with with sugar-free caramel syrup!

pie

Another great option to lighten things up and that couldn’t be easier is to combine pumpkin puree and light cool-whip.

If you can find sugar-free, I obviously recommend that. Mix them together and serve like a trifle or as a “dip” with fruit!

Whipped Cream

Here you have options:

  1. use regular whipping cream, whip it yourself, but use Splenda instead of sugar
  2. buy the light/sugar-free/fat-free version of you regular pre-made whipping cream
  3. make this super awesome and delicious coconut whipped cream (bonus, dairy free!)

Side Dishes & Swaps

Because everyone has their own favorite family side dishes, I will recommend my easy calorie cutting swaps for ingredients on the most common dishes I can think of and the ones that are classics in my house!

Stuffing

Add MORE vegetables and use Ezekiel bread instead of your regular bread- this will bulk it up and give you great texture.

I’ll be honest, stuffing is one of those ones where it’s hard to fake it, I recommend either avoiding it if it’s not something that fits into your plan, or having a small amount to satisfy your craving (remember, you filled up on turkey anyways!)

Sweet Potato Casserole 

The marshmallows on this one are tough to replace. But you CAN buy sugar-free marshmallows if you plan in advance (I purchase mine at Hygeia Health Market in Saskatoon, but just google sugar-free marshmallows wherever you are!)- the thing you CAN save on is all the added sugar in the potato puree itself. Use 0 calorie sugar and brown Sugar Twin to replicate the flavors!

Green Bean Casserole 

Use oat flour to thicken your sauce, opt for the low fat dairy instead, and replace the fried onions with toasted almonds!

Roasted Veggies

Here’s where you can FULLY enjoy and won’t miss the swap, my favorite “healthy” but you’d never know it, veggie!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with BACON (turkey bacon that is, but still, bacon!)

-In a frying pan cook turkey bacon until crisp

-While cooking the bacon half Brussels sprouts, spray with coconut oil cooking spray, salt & pepper

-Roast sprouts until brown and golden, top with crumbled up crisped turkey bacon and enjoy!

Gravy 

Opt for an “aux jus” instead of a gravy to save on the calories (flour/butter/cornstarch, etc) used to thicken a gravy!

I hope some of these tips/tricks/recipes/swaps help you go into the holidays confident and ready to rock. 

Like I said, it’s all about balance, maybe you have the REAL DEAL pumpkin pie, but opt for just protein and veg with your main meal and avoid the stuffing and buns (we know what white bread tastes like anyways, it’s nothing special!) 

Make sure you focus on the SOCIAL aspect of the holiday, that’s what it’s all about.

Food doesn’t need to be the focus! 

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