Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: A Guiltless Turkey Day

Have a healthy holiday!
(photo courtesy of

Thanksgiving Eve is finally here, and many of us are amping up for a day of indulgence tomorrow.  Unfortunately, for me the splurging doesn’t always stop with just one meal.  Over the weekend we will enjoy fine meals at restaurants or cave to the temptation of fast food and sweets while we shop-till-we-drop.  After the weekend is over I will resume my normal routine of diet and exercise – at least until the following weekend when we plan on attending our first party of the holiday season.  Throw in our tradition of preparing homemade goodies for our friends and neighbors and, well, you can see why by the time January 1st rolls around I feel the need to repent for my many dietary sins.

But, wait, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Believe it or not, the holiday season can be enjoyed without all the guilt as long as we remember two things: moderation and forgiveness.

Moderation means enjoying the foods we love – in small doses – while combining our indulgences with our already established healthy habits.  And forgiveness, of course, means not beating ourselves up when we have one too many cookies, truffles, or martinis (trust me, a pomegranate martini can easily turn into 2 or 3.  But try not to get to 4, or you probably will find yourself on the floor.)

So, starting with Thanksgiving, here are some ideas for substituting the traditional nutritionally-bankrupt casseroles for some healthier side dishes in an effort to balance out that piece (or two) of pumpkin pie that you know you will want to enjoy at the end of a very satisfying meal.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Leeks:  I first learned about this dish a few years back from my sister-in-law and it has become a family staple ever since.  Place Brussels sprouts and sliced leeks in a roasting pan, toss with olive oil and a generous amount of sea salt and pepper, and then roast in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes (check for doneness after around 12 minutes).  When cooked, remove from the oven and drizzle some balsamic vinegar over them.  Oh, man, talk about delicious!  The roasting develops a rich, earthy flavor that balances nicely with the sweet vinegar.  This is a quintessential fall dish!

The traditional green bean casserole (you know, the one oozing with cream of mushroom soup, crunchy fried onions, and sometimes cheese) is yummy, but why not try and switch it up with something just as delicious but quite a bit healthier?  I found a recipe for green beans with caramelized onions that rivals the traditional casserole in both flavor and nutritional value.  First, melt a tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan over medium-low heat.  Then place onion slices in a single layer in the pan.  Let the onions slowly cook until they turn brown, then flip.  Add green beans, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of brown sugar to taste, stir, and continue cooking until beans are cooked through. 

Instead of sweet potato casserole covered in melted mushrooms, why not consider serving a sweet potato soup? You can choose to make a savory soup or a sweeter version, depending on your personal taste preferences.

Do you like mashed potatoes with your gravy?  Just remember to whip those potatoes with lowfat (or skim) milk and substitute olive oil for butter.  Or, better yet, roast cut potatoes drizzled with olive oil and herbs in a 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Gravy is optional.

Lastly, remember to select white meat instead of dark when you pick your turkey slices for your plate.  Additionally, try roasting your turkey at 500 degrees (approximate times for varying bird sizes listed below).  This is a fool-proof recipe for achieving a moist, delicious turkey in a (relatively) short cooking time.
WEIGHT                               STUFFED                          UNSTUFFED
      9 pounds                           1 hour 45 minutes                            1 hour 15 minutes
      12 pounds                         1 hour 50 minutes                            1 hour 20 minutes
      15 pounds                         2 hours 30 minutes                          2 hours
       20 pounds                         3 hours 30 minutes                          3 hours

Enjoy your holiday meal, and let me know if you tried any of these recommendations for a healthier feast!

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