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Healthy Thanksgiving: It's All About Baby Steps

Posted Dec 18 2008 7:31pm
Are you ready for the feast? Some of you have been putting together your menu for weeks. Others will probably shop in the next few days for the same ingredients for the same dishes you make every year. After all, Thanksgiving is about tradition. Right?

We're right there with you. But we also believe in baby steps toward making holiday traditional meals into healthy fare. Each year we've tinkered with a few recipes and tried new variations to start our own healthy Thanksgiving traditions without going "cold turkey" on the family.

The first year after we consciously started our healthy eating journey we started by looking at our menu and eliminating the "worst" recipes. In our family, that meant ditching the sweet potatoes with a pound of brown sugar and marshmallows on top. We also traded pecan pie, which is basically a corn syrup soup (ugh!) for apple pie using local apples. We also tried out some new recipes like homemade cranberry sauce rather than that canned stuff.

Last Thanksgiving we incorporated more healthy recipes. Mom Lazo tried out whole wheat crescent rolls made from scratch rather than the ones out of the little Pillsbury tube. We also urged Mom to make her pie crusts out of whole wheat pastry flour and real butter (ditching the white flour and margarine/shortening). Ericlee also requested this stuffing that incorporated wild rice (which is known for its high-protein content - double that of brown rice) and goat cheese instead of the usual cubed white bread-based stuffing. (We saw Bobby Flay mix this new version up on a Thanksgiving cooking show.) The stuffing was a wild hit!

For us, these changes in the menu while maintaining the "integrity" of a traditional Thanksgiving are baby steps. We didn't spring Tofurky on the crew. We thought of ways we could make old favorites with organic and local ingredients. We decided to reduce the amount of butter and salt in recipes and use natural sweeteners like honey. This year we're adding a homemade Green Bean Casserole (instead of that canned soup kind) and adding our new fave, Banana-Pumpkin Muffins (a greater starter or dessert that uses no sugar at all!)

There's no convincing Ericlee's mom at this point that we don't need two turkeys. Maybe next year? In the meantime, we're dreaming up healthy leftovers with that excess of bird!

This year's menu:

Gorgonzola & Pear Pizza
Whole Wheat Crescent Rolls
Banana-Pumpkin Muffins
Dorina's Butternut Squash Soup

Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Classic Roasted Turkey with Herbed Stuffing
Paul's Teriyaki-injected Turkey
Wild Rice & Goat Cheese Stuffing
Mashed Pecan-crusted Sweet Potatoes
Pomegranate-pear Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Tiramisu
Oatmeal-Nut Crunch Apple Pie
Blueberry pie with Oatmeal crunch with Honey Whipped Cream
Organic Italian Pizzelle Cookies

We're interested in a word from you. What healthy additions or subtractions do you have for your menu this year? What questions do you have about how to make a healthier Thanksgiving meal?
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