Give Thanks for Healthy Holiday Swaps!


Thanksgiving is generally accepted as the “all-you-can-eat-holiday”. Research has shown that people eat up to 3,000 calories just at dinner. That means the average person eats around 4,500-5,000 calories on Turkey Day alone! This is a huge jump from our average recommended intake of 2,000 calories per day.  

It would be unrealistic and unfair to expect you to avoid all the Thanksgiving goodies this delicious holiday has to offer. But don’t blow a years worth of hard work on just one day. Luckily, there are simple and tasty ways to have your cake and eat it, too!

One easy trick to avoid overeating is to modify your menu without sacrificing any of the flavors. I found a few amazing recipes that have been tweaked to reduce calories from sugar and fat, the main culprits during this, and most, holidays.

Recipe 1: Choose raw cranberry sauce, which is naturally high in antioxidants and low in added sugars. I am not going to lie, the raw cranberry is definitely more tart than canned cranberry sauce, but if you give it a chance you’ll find that it’s a delicious combination with succulent turkey.

  • 1 cup of fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange
  • 1 tpsp of honey
  • Orange zest

Directions: Soak 1 cup of cranberries with squeezed orange overnight. Blend ¾ of the cup with honey until smooth. Add the rest of the cranberries (sliced) and orange zest.

Recipe 2: Eat mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Cauliflower is naturally low in calories, high in fiber, and has almost 100% of vitamin C in one small cup. Swapping out potatoes for cauliflower reduces the calories by more than half! Now that’s something to be thankful for! Recipe adapted from The Detoxinista. 

  • 2 medium-sized head of cauliflower, chopped into florets (about 3 pounds)
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Boil cauliflower for about 5 minutes, until fork tender. Drain the cauliflower and place in a blender. Make sure to drain well. Add other ingredients and puree until desired texture.

Recipe 3: Eat caramelized onion and mushroom gravy instead of giblet gravy, which is high in saturated fat and sodium and is not heart-friendly. Mushrooms are a great addition to any meal because they possess amazing anti-inflammatory properties and taste delicious! Recipe adapted from Fitness Magazine.

  • 2 large onions (white or yellow)
  • 1 cup of sliced button mushrooms 
  • 1 cup of low sodium, vegetarian or meat broth
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of fresh rosemary or thyme
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions: Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Chill onions before blending. In a blender, puree all ingredients, except mushrooms, until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil and add mushrooms. Lower heat to medium and cook for 5-8 minutes. Season to taste.

Recipe 4: Opt for pumpkin bread instead of cornbread. Pumpkin is naturally high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and a good source of fiber. It has great immune boosting qualities and is good for heart health. Recipe adapted from Clean Program Blog. 

  • 1 15oz can pumpkin, no added sugar or sodium  
  •  4 tablespoons melted coconut or canola oil
  • 1 ¾ cups whole grain flour
  • ¾ cup brown sugar (granules)
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 325. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin, Agave nectar and vanilla. If you need to melt the coconut oil, microwave for 20 seconds or until softened. Pour melted oil into the mixture. Stir everything to fully combine. Pour into greased (with coconut oil) bread pan (5x9 inch) and cook for 30 minutes.

Want to learn more delicious recipe substitutions for the upcoming holidays? Be sure not to miss our Holiday Eating Survival Kit seminar on Monday, December 9th at our New York Health & Racquet Club 23rd street location.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Written and photographed by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD 

 Edited by TCabrarr