Category Archives: Healthy Thanksgiving Options

Our Thanksgiving Table: Saving the best for last – Pumpkin Pie!

We’ve all admitted that Thanksgiving dinner could never be a complete experience without dessert – and more specifically, pie. And even more specifically, pumpkin pie!

It’s a turkey day tradition … and some form of pumpkin pie (although not the one we enjoy today) could have easily been present during that first Thanksgiving feast in the early 1600s. Early American settlers of Plimoth Plantation, the first permanent European settlement in southern New England, might have made a “pumpkin-pie-like treat” by making stewed pumpkins or by filling a hollowed out shell with milk, honey and spices, and then baking it in hot ashes.

A recipe for pumpkin pie appears in a 1651 cookbook from France. This recipe is the first that includes a pie crust making the dish fairly identical to the pumpkin pie we enjoy today.

We’ve almost finished our meal around the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table. So let’s enjoy our favorite Thanksgiving dessert. Sad thing is that when we indulge in this traditional compliment to our holiday meal, it will cost us upwards of 400 calories per slice with a hefty 14.3 grams of fat per serving.

We don’t want to feel guilty about this great dessert. We want to enjoy it, savoring each bite. And the only way we can think about doing this (especially immediately following that incredible meal we all just shared), is to find a way to lighten up this recipe WITHOUT sacrificing any of the flavor.

Here’s what you’ll need:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 can evaporated skim milk
1/4 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 can pumpkin puree
1 frozen pie shell, thawed
For the topping:
1/4 cup whipping cream

Directions:
1. Position oven rack to lowest position. Preheat oven to 425° F.
2. Combine all ingredients except pumpkin in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin, and continue stirring until smooth.
3. Pour pumpkin mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350° F (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.
4. To prepare topping, beat cream with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Serve with pie (1 Tbsp per slice).

This recipe produces a very flavorful pumpkin pie! It also brings the calories down to 210 per slice with 6 grams of fat! That’s a pretty significant savings of fat and calories!!

We’ve really enjoyed having you all gather together around our Thanksgiving table at FoodFacts.com. If you’ve been following along with us, you’ll know that the traditional dinner we’ve profiled came in at 1766 calories and 83 grams of fat for Roast Turkey, Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing, Candied Yams, Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Pie. We’ve outlined some lighter recipes for that same Thanksgiving meal. It now comes in at 876 calories and 23.4 grams of fat. That’s over 50% less calories and over 71% less fat than the traditional recipes we’re all used it.

FoodFacts.com is excited to sit down to our healthier feast this Thanksgiving. We hope you give some of these lighter ideas a try. You’ll not only feel good about the nutritional value of your holiday meal – your family will feel good about the wonderful flavors and aromas rising from your kitchen this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving from FoodFacts.com!

Our Thanksgiving Table: Roast Turkey … the holiday centerpiece

We’re getting closer to the big day and as we do, our thoughts turn repeatedly to the centerpiece of our table — the roast turkey!

There really isn’t much that compares to the aroma of a golden brown turkey roasting away in the oven on Thanksgiving morning. And then there are the leftovers! The possibilities are endless … turkey sandwiches with gravy, turkey pot pies, turkey and stuffing casseroles are just a few of our favorites.

Gather round our table where the turkey is the Thanksgiving day main event. But sadly, the centerpiece of our meal can inflict a heavy dose of fat and calories on the holiday dinner. The typical roast turkey prepared in the traditional manner supplies about 400 calories per serving with 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat and 994 mg of sodium.

Did the pilgrims actually include a turkey in their original Thanksgiving feast? The jury’s out on this one. It appears that in Massachusetts in 1621 there were plenty of wild turkeys keeping the colonists company. So it would certainly seem natural that a bird would be part of that original dinner thanking God for the harvest and for the colonists’ survival in the new world (which was not an easy feat). The pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving for three days – so we’d have to assume that more than one wild turkey was included. That was quite a feast!

While we love the roast turkey, we also love the rest of the meal and want to enjoy it in its entirety without worrying about compromising our healthy lifestyle in order to do so. That can become difficult when most of the side dishes we love so much are very high in calories and fat, as well as sodium. So what can we do about keeping our turkey at reasonable fat and calorie levels, without sacrificing any of that marvelous flavor? We’d also like to make sure that we keep our favorite, old-fashioned aromas wafting through our homes in the morning hours of Thanksgiving day.

This healthier recipe will ensure both the flavor and fragrance of a winning roast turkey. The apples and onions help to keep the bird from drying out, so that you’ll achieve that moist texture that’s so important.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• 1 10- to 12-pound turkey
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus a few sprigs
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus a few sprigs
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 1/2 pounds small onions, peeled and halved lengthwise, divided
• 1 tart green apple, quartered
• 3 cups water, plus more as needed

Directions
• Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 475°F.
• Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity.
• Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan; pat dry with paper towels.
• Combine oil, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey, under the skin and onto the breast meat. Place herb sprigs, half of the onions and apple in the cavity. Add 3 cups water to the pan.
• Roast the turkey until the skin is golden brown, 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven. Cover the breast with foil, cutting as necessary to fit. Add remaining onions to the pan around the turkey. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting a thermometer registers 165°F, 1 to 1 3/4 hours more. If the pan dries out, add more water.
• Transfer the turkey to a serving platter (reserve pan juices and onions for gravy) and tent with foil.

This will make for a great turkey day experience for everyone. Flavorful and moist for less than half the calories and fat of a traditional recipe. The apples really add to the flavor and aroma of the bird. We love adding this healthy option to the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table and can’t wait to sit down to this year’s better-for-us feast!

Our Thanksgiving Table: Cranberry Sauce

Here’s a traditional Thanksgiving favorite that many people get excited about because they’ve heard so many good things about the main attraction in the dish: Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberries pack big health benefits into a small, tart package. They are high in vitamin C, have antioxidant effects and antibacterial properties. Cranberries contain cancer-fighting flavanoids, they can decrease dental plaque and promote eye health, among many other advantages.  So of course, most folks are cranberry fans — especially at Thanksgiving, when we all know that most of our favorite side dishes aren’t exactly nutritionally valuable.

We’ve got some bad news folks. All the sugar you’re adding to your home made cranberry sauce (or what the manufacturer has added to the brand you’re buying) is pretty much neutralizing the health benefits of the cranberry itself.

So let’s gather round the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table again and take a look at traditional cranberry sauce versus a fruity, low sugar recipe that you can REALLY feel good about.

Cranberries are common to North America and the first English settlers to the new world called them “craneberries,” due their flowers that resemble the head of a crane. Native Americans already knew about the berry’s health-promoting properties and often mixed it with pemmican, a dried meat mix, to preserve it for eating during the long New England winters. Cranberry sauce gained in popularity after General Ulysses S. Grant ordered it served to his troops during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia during the Civil War, and in 1912 it became available commercially under the name “Ocean Spray.”

So let’s use Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce as our comparison product (since the product shares part of the history of the dish). The serving size for the product is ¼ cup. It contains cranberries, high fructose corn syrup and water. Each of those ¼ cup servings contains 22 grams of sugar (or 5.5 teaspoons), as well as 110 calories.

We really prefer to prepare our own cranberry sauce here at FoodFacts.com. We’re all in agreement that it tastes so much better home made. And we also know that the nutrient-packed cranberry adds more to our health when we cook it up in our own kitchens than when we pick it up off the grocery shelf. Here’s a tasty cranberry sauce recipe that almost halves the sugar per serving:

3 cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup pineapple juice
½ cup good quality organic unsweetened applesauce
½ cup water
Zest of one orange
3 tablespoons honey

1. In a saucepan on your stove top, combine the first 4 ingredients and bring to a boil
2. Stir continually over medium heat until the cranberries begin to pop
3. Reduce heat to medium low
4. Add zest and honey
5. Cook another 15 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken
6. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight before serving

It’s such a simple recipe. Kids really love helping with this one because the cranberries pop in front of their eyes! This cranberry sauce cuts down on the sugar and is much more flavorful than canned varieties.

Join us at our Thanksgiving table next week when we’ll look at a few more traditional dishes and how we can make them fit more comfortably into a healthy holiday!

Our Thanksgiving Table: Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing

There are so many different traditions for Thanksgiving stuffing or dressing (including whether or not the turkey is stuffed or the dressing is baked alongside the turkey). One of the more common recipes for stuffing or dressing is Cornbread and Sausage. It’s a savory/sweet side dish with Southern roots that’s happily eaten at Thanksgiving tables all over the country.

Let’s gather round the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table as we alter the traditional Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing a bit to make it a lighter, healthier and less caloric side dish to the main attraction. O.k., we didn’t just alter the stuffing recipe a little … we took the sausage completely out of the equation, while still allowing you and your guests to enjoy a savory and satisfying stuffing experience!

The history or stuffing (or dressing) may predate Roman civilization. The earliest recipes for stuffing can be found in a Roman cookbook that was written in the late 4th century AD. Recorded in this book were recipes for stuffed chicken, rabbit, pig and dormouse (which, believe it or not, was considered a delicacy in ancient Rome.) In these ancient Roman recipes, featured ingredients in stuffing were vegetables, herbs, nuts and ancient grains like spelt. It was not unusual to find various organ meats included like liver and brains.

In England prior to the sixteenth century, stuffing was called “farce”. Then in the Victorian era, it became known as dressing. Because stuffing was common in England prior to the establishment of the American colonies, it is easy to assume that the Pilgrims, after deciding to make the turkey the focal point of the first Thanksgiving feast, would have naturally chosen to stuff it.

And undoubtedly, after that first Thanksgiving, stuffing recipes have evolved pretty dramatically. Cornbread or white bread? Stuffed inside the bird, or baked alongside? Eggs or no eggs? There are plenty of competing methods for preparing the much-loved and traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing recipes abound and this is one of the most popular preparations at Thanksgiving in millions of homes.

Sadly, though, the typical Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing boasts over 500 calories per serving, with over 38 grams of fat (oh my) and over 900 mg of sodium. That nutritional data isn’t exactly side dish worthy. Put the stuffing next to your turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie and the numbers might actually resemble two or three full days of food consumption!

Stuffing really needs to lighten up a little. So here’s our suggestion:

6 corn muffins (prepared from a good organic mix, like Shiloh Farms), crumbled
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion diced
2 large diced Portobello mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried sage
Half teaspoon dried rosemary
2 cups hot vegetable broth
1 tablespoon almond butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Crumble the corn muffins into a large mixing bowl
3. Melt two tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan
4. Sauté vegetables and garlic until softened – 4 to 5 minutes
5. Add vegetables to crumbled corn muffins
6. Stir in the herbs gently, evenly distributing in the muffin-vegetable mixture
7. Stir the almond butter into the vegetable broth
8. Pour over the muffin-vegetable mixture a little at a time until moistened throughout. Use additional broth if necessary. Mixture should be moist, not overly wet and no liquid should be evident at the bottom of the bowl.
9. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Transfer dressing into dish and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Cover dish with foil.
10. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove foil and return to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes until brown.
11. (Or you can stuff your turkey with the unbaked mixture and roast your turkey as usual – adding additional time per pound for the stuffing as per your roasting instructions.)

Portobello mushrooms add a savory flavor to any dish and make for a very enjoyable stuffing without the additional fat and calories from sausage. This stuffing is about 100 calories per serving, only 4.4 grams of fat and 45 mg. of sodium.

While Cornbread Portobello Mushroom Stuffing certainly puts a new twist on tradition, it really is a rich and flavorful dish. Unusually “meaty” for a meatless side, you’ll find that this recipe makes for a great inside-the-bird stuffing or an equally great baked dressing.

Our invitation to dinner will be open until Thanksgiving Day! All month long, FoodFacts.com will be taking a look at better preparations for all our favorite holiday foods. By the time we reach the end of November, we’ll have a great meal planned that we’ll all be able to enjoy that fits easily within our healthy lifestyle! And don’t worry … we aren’t going to forget dessert!

Our Thanksgiving Table: Candied Yams

We’re all looking forward to a happy, healthy Thanksgiving shared with family and friends seated around a table piled high with our holiday favorites! We’ll all be indulging a little this holiday season. Let’s face it, Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t feature traditional recipes that make the best of the fall harvest.

Let’s gather round the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table. This week, we’ll be putting a healthier spin on candied yams – a traditional dish for many this holiday season.
Yams are a very healthy food choice. They’re a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, manganese and vitamin B6. They have an earth flavor and are naturally sweet. Yams make for a pretty filling side dish. In addition, they are a truly authentic addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

Yams and sweet potatoes were grown on American soil pretty consistently by the time Christopher Columbus landed on our shores in the late 15th century. When the colonists put together their first Thanksgiving meal, it would be safe to assume that yams were a component. By 1880 Americans were enjoying some sort of variation of candied sweet potatoes. American cookbooks, such as the widely published 1893 Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Farmer featured a recipe for glazed sweet potatoes.

Unfortunately, candied yam recipes tend to focus more on the sweet goodies in the average recipe than the yams themselves. The average  recipe contains over 400 calories per serving, 15 grams of fat and plenty of sugar. We have to remind ourselves that it’s this is only one of a variety of sides accompanying our turkey. It would behoove us to discover a more healthful recipe than our traditional method that often calls for plenty of brown sugar and corn syrup as well as marshmallows – which while tasty, offer nothing to the dish nutritionally.

So here’s our idea for a better candied yam recipe. You’ll need:

4 yams
1 jar of good quality sugar free apricot preserves (Nature’s Hollow would be a great example)
¼ teaspoon of orange zest
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Nutmeg, ground cloves (just a pinch of each)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Boil the yams just until tender (about 25 minutes). Cool completely.
3. Remove the skins from the par-boiled yams.
4. In a medium saucepan combine the jar of sugar-free preserves, butter, orange zest and spices. Stir over medium heat until melted.
5. Slice potatoes into rounds about ½” thick. Layer the slices in a 9” baking dish. Pour half the glaze over the layer. Layer the remainder of the potatoes and pour the rest of the glaze over. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans. Cover with foil.
6. Bake 375° for about 30 min. Remove foil and bake 15 min. longer. Cook until yams are fork tender.

This variation on the traditional recipe for candied yams produces a rich and flavorful dish. And in the final analysis, it is really worth the makeover. This new recipe has 206 calories per serving, 5 grams of sugar, 30 mg. of sodium and 11 grams of fat. It isn’t just lighter and lower in calories. It’s really a healthier alternative.

O.k., we’ll admit it – this dish does not include marshmallows so you may experience some resistance from the die-hard traditionalists. We actually think they’ll change their minds after they taste it.

FoodFacts.com will be inviting you to sit down to our Thanksgiving table every week until the big day. We’ll share all the wonderful nutritional information about the fruits of the fall harvest featured in our Thanksgiving feast and hopefully, give you new ideas on how to prepare that bounty in new and different ways. We’re already getting hungry just thinking about it!