Published on October 31st, 2020 | by April Thompson0
Giving Thanks For A Healthy Feast: How To Lighten Up Thanksgiving Fare
Due to travel restrictions, tighter budgets and concern for family members that may be older or have underlying health conditions, Thanksgiving might be a smaller affair this year, but that’s no reason to give up on having a scrumptious, celebratory meal. With a little creativity and lots of flavor, our treasured American holiday need not suffer. Giant turkeys may not grace as many tables as usual, so it’s the perfect time to up the side-dish game, embracing healthier options and taking full advantage of an abundant supply of delicious, in-season produce.
Sweet potatoes and pumpkin offer a nutritional edge over white potatoes, giving them top billing at Satterfield’s holiday table. He suggests simplifying the traditional sweet potato casserole by first parboiling, straining, peeling and cutting the potatoes into thick chunks, and then baking with lemon juice, nutmeg and water. “The sweet potatoes will caramelize and form a natural syrup. It has a bright and refreshing flavor without adding the usual butter, marshmallows and sugar,” he explains.
According to Satterfield, many nutritious bitter greens are plentiful this time of year, including chicory, radicchio, frisée and endive. “Last Thanksgiving, I made a chicory salad with dates, pecans, shaved parmesan and persimmon with a sherry vinaigrette with olive oil and shallots. The sweetness of the fruit balances nicely with the bitter greens, which add fiber and help with digestion and the circulatory system.”
Thanksgiving offers a good opportunity to go meatless, according to Kim Campbell, vegan chef and author of The PlantPure Nation Cookbook. “There is a substitute for every animal product out there, so it’s not hard to make traditional recipes plant-based,” says the Durham, North Carolina, native. Her recipe for a nutty or beanie loaf ramps up the flavor and health profiles by using fresh, rather than dried, herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage, as well as natural binding agents like lentils, flax seeds or chia seeds mixed with water. “Guests will be amazed that whole foods can be so flavorful and satisfying,” she says. “Go the extra mile with quality ingredients for a special meal like this.”
Campbell encourages people to enjoy the abundance of fresh produce and learn how to cook in season. Fruit-based desserts can be a great way to showcase what’s in season and still keep guests light on their feet. “You don’t have to use crust or a lot of added sugar for something like an apple crisp or cobbler,” she says.
Annemarie Ahearn, founder of the Salt Water Farm cooking school, in Lincolnville, Maine, also suggests a healthful rethinking of traditional Thanksgiving dishes. “Instead of a green bean casserole, consider blanched green beans with almond and cranberry. Dried cranberries can go in a salad, rather than a sauce. You can have the same ingredients and keep the same focal point, but use less cream and dairy,” says the author of Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm: Recipes from Land and Sea.