First, put some thought into your menu.
This year, put some conscious thought into cutting some calories from your Thanksgiving dishes. No, you don’t have to abandon great-grandma’s super-secret stuffing recipe, but Brandon Franklin, the executive chef Mindstream Academy, promises that you can make other substitutions that don’t sacrifice taste in the slightest. Here are some starting points:
• Roast a skinless, boneless turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. This way you’ll avoid the less healthy skin and dark meat.
• Use whole wheat bread in your stuffing. And if the recipe calls for butter, cut the amount in half and use unsalted, organic butter. Or, just skip it altogether and use a little chicken or turkey stock for moisture.
• When making the green bean casserole, use fresh or frozen green beans. Canned green beans have a higher sodium content. If you use fresh beans, be sure to wash them, boil them for two minutes, and place them in ice water to cool. Same butter rules apply for the casserole as for the stuffing.
• When it’s time for dessert, your best choice is a pie made with pure pumpkin. If you’re close to full capacity, skip the crust.
• Make your own cranberry sauce. Whether you love it or hate it, its place on the Thanksgiving table is guaranteed. Making the sauce yourself is quick, simple, and will save you a lot of unwanted calories and excessive sugar. Below is one of Franklin’s favorite recipes:
Chef Franklin’s Calorie-Light Cranberry Sauce:
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
• 4 cups (1 12-oz package) fresh or frozen cranberries
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons raisins or currants
Bring sugar and water to a boil in stainless steel pan. After water has come to a boil, add cranberries and wait for boiling to continue. Reduce to simmer and boil cranberries for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add lemon zest and raisins or currants. Cool in fridge for 1 hour and serve.
So how much is enough?
Cooking healthier meals is step one, says Franklin. Knowing how much to eat is step two. Even if you cut calories from every recipe, you still can’t eat until you pop. Here are some portioning tips to give you an idea of how to healthily load your plate:
• Know the right amounts. From a typical Thanksgiving spread, you might eat 5 to 6 ounces of turkey meat, 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce, 1/2 cup of stuffing, 1/2 cup of green bean casserole, and 2 ounces of gravy. This amount of food should fill your plate and keep you full…but not too full.
• Try to paint your plate with color. It should be brimming with oranges, reds, greens, and purples. (These colors will come from seasonal produce.)
• Don’t cook so much that you will be eating leftovers for days. Try to figure out how much your family can realistically eat in one sitting, and buy a turkey sized accordingly. Remember, Thanksgiving dinner was originally limited to one meal—the original celebrants weren’t trying to feed an entire army for a week!
Sarah Stone is co-creator and director of operations for MindStream Academy. Along with Founder Ray Travaglione, she has worked on the MindStream Academy project from its inception. She is an honors graduate of the University of Toledo whose dream was always to work with youth. After her previous work as director of admissions at a teenage recovery management facility, Sarah found a path that led her to her work at MindStream. Her dream has been realized as she takes great pride in helping teens work to heal and nurture what is broken and learn to be tolerant and understanding of themselves.