For those of us who are trying to teach our families to lead healthier lifestyles, moderation and healthy eating are just as important on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, it is possible to eat right and still enjoy yourself on Turkey Day! I have three sons and a husband myself, and while I like to cook large, festive meals, I also like to keep fat and calories in check.
To help, I created a three-course Thanksgiving meal that clocks in around 500 calories! (Dessert, not included in that number, will add 150 calories or fewer, if you have room for it.)
Use the recipes below to compare my Thanksgiving feast with a traditional meal. The more recipes you use from this list, the more calories you'll save--without sacrificing taste or tradition!
This meal has 510 fewer calories and 39 fewer grams of fat than a traditional feast! These recipes include a veggie-rich soup to start your meal off right, the juiciest turkey you'll ever taste, several sides, two desserts, plus a cranberry relish that will leave the store-bought jelly quivering in its can.
|Chef Meg's Roasted Squash Soup
Studies have shown that starting a meal with a broth-based soup can fill you up, so you eat fewer calories over the course of a meal. This soup gets a boost of flavor from cilantro pesto, but there's very little fat in this version. TIP: Roast the squash ahead of time and freeze it. Your oven will be full on Thanksgiving, and this will save you some valuable time.
|Chef Meg's Herb Roasted Turkey
When the fat from the turkey melts during cooking, it falls to the bottom of the roasting pan. When that happens, the bottom quarter of the bird does not roast--it braises in its own juices. To prevent this from happening, try using a V-rack in your roasting pan for perfect results!
|Chef Meg's Apple Cider Gravy
Traditional gravy gets a bad rap, but this tasty sauce can be made with almost no fat. The trick is to skim the fat from your pan juices (either put it in the fridge or use cheesecloth to soak up the fat). Depending on their size, turkeys will yield varying amounts of juices. From a 12-pound roasted turkey, you can expect about 1/2 cup defatted jus (juice).
|Chef Meg's Cranberry Relish
Toss the canned cranberry jelly and use this homemade version instead. It's ready in no time, has less sugar than the store-bought stuff, and is full of healthy fruit! While you might question why this recipe needs the amount of sugar it contains, you'll understand as soon as you taste fresh cranberries--they're tart!
|Chef Meg's Vegetable and Fruit Stuffing
Whole-wheat bread gives this side staying power. The fruits and vegetables bulk up the dish, so a little goes a long way. A bit of turkey bacon adds another layer of flavor without adding many calories.
|Chef Meg's Roasted Root Vegetables
This recipe sings of the fall and early winter harvest. Take advantage of your local farmers market and buy whatever root vegetables they have. This side dish is quite affordable, too: about 60 cents per serving!
|1/2 cup steamed green vegetables of your choice
The calories are low, the fat is nonexistent, and adding a vegetable to your plate will help prevent you from filling up on empty calories. Try broccoli, spinach, green beans, or any other non-starchy vegetable.
But wait. We couldn't forget dessert!
A slice of pie can contain between 240 and 400 calories and at least 10 grams of fat. But for just150 calories or so, you can have two of these bite-size tarts. These portion-controlled pies are the perfect end to a your Thanksgiving feast.
|Chef Meg's Sweet Potato Tarts
Try these light and low-fat personal pies for dessert during the fall. They're a great substitute for pumpkin pie or sweet potato casserole. NOTE: To boost the fiber, you can look for whole-wheat phyllo dough, which is available at natural foods stores or in the health food section of many grocery freezers.
|Chef Meg's Mini Apple Tarts
Instead of a whole pie, try making bite-size tarts! These diminutive desserts cook quicker and are automatically portion controlled. Plus, they're easier to make for a crowd, and there's no need for a fork and plate. This recipe only costs about $3.50 to make--but you save money by buying sheets of phyllo dough and making your own tart shells (see directions for more information).
There you have it. A full Thanksgiving meal that's trim--but not missing any of the trimmings. Armed with these healthy recipes, no one has to fear Thanksgiving dinner--except for maybe the turkey!