Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes
Remixing Your Holiday Dinner Menu
by: Chef Judson Todd Allen
The holiday season...where even the most health-conscious person is coerced by the aroma of baked macaroni & cheese and herbaceous cornbread stuffing. And let's not forget the lingering smells of the "family secret" pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and we are faced with gut-wrenching decisions: Should I or shouldn't I? One more slice? What can I shift on my plate to make room for at least one vegetable?
While these are challenges that some of us face during the holidays, I found myself asking these same questions for the majority of my life. Growing up in a family where mouth-watering yet unhealthy dishes were celebrated, especially during Thanksgiving, I was infatuated with food. My struggle with weight and addiction to unhealthy foods was a reality that I faced from my early childhood and into my adult years. At an astounding 350+ pounds, I decided to make a healthy lifestyle change.
The "Miracle" of Flavor
Flavor literally saved my life! Through my journey toward a healthier new me, I knew that I was not willing to forgo tasty cuisine. With that as my goal, I dispelled the myth that healthy food is boring and bland. I built innovative flavor profiles that brought life to healthier food options, transforming the way I thought and felt about healthy foods. As a result, spanning a 7-year period I have maintained a total weight loss of over 150 pounds.
Tips to Lighten Holiday Favorites
While some see the holidays as a pass for guilty food over indulgences, what if I told you that you could create an eating experience that is lighter on calories but still delivers on the flavors we all desire for our Thanksgiving dinners. I know at this point some of you are cringing at the idea of "remixing" tradition; however, when it comes to our health, it is well worth it. I am going to share some of my holiday cooking tips that will surely leave you totally satisfied.
Remixed Pumpkin Pie
Tip 1: To infuse this dish with a healthier twist, swap your traditional pie crust with an oatmeal, pecan and dried cranberry crumble for the top of the dessert. This adds texture and sweetness.
Tip 2: To add richness and creaminess, swap your heavy cream, eggs and butter with blended almond milk, vanilla extract and avocado.
Tip 3: Always roast your pumpkin before using. It enhances the natural sweetness.
Guiltless Macaroni & Cheese
Tip 1: Instead of the traditional heavy whipping cream, eggs and butter that add the creamy affect to this dish, substitute with non-fat Greek yogurt, reduced fat milk and olive oil.
Tip 2: To add heightened flavor give your dish a nice balance of sweet, spice and saltiness. Using jalapenos, garlic and honey to this dish gives a nice flavor profile. To substitute heavy amounts of salt, use a low-sodium hot sauce to elevate the flavor profile without losing that delicious hint of saltiness.
Tip 3: Provide a nice blend of cheeses including healthier options like ricotta, goat cheese and mozzarella.
Fish As Your "Star" Protein
Tip 1: Instead of heavy red meats and fried proteins, use fresh fish options.
Tip 2: Make your fish a "star" by stuffing it with your favorite roasted vegetables, fresh citrus slices and herbs, sautéed lemon garlic spinach or even a wild rice medley to add healthy flavors.
Tip 3: Broiling, grilling and poaching are great healthy ways to prepare and lock in tons of flavor while leaving a succulent piece of fish.
Food is truly the global language of the soul and it is through these stories that we are all connected. I continue to encourage and inspire myself and others to indulge in healthy flavorful cuisine.