Cari’s Healthy Tips + Recipes for Thanksgiving

I know most of you are making your plans for Thanksgiving this week, so I wanted to share some tips and ideas on how you can keep it healthy this year and avoid any extra pounds!

Here is a sample menu of what I normally cook:

1. Turkey

I usually do a small turkey or sometimes I just get turkey breast. I used this RECIPE from Rachael Ray a few years ago and it turned out great! Also, try to buy organic or free-range if you can. It’s a little more expensive, but the turkey tastes way better and plus the turkey was raised in humane conditions. Happy turkey = tasty turkey!

*Also, for a meatless option, I serve Quorn Turk’y Breast (I like it better than Tofurkey). I also like the “field roast” slices at Whole Foods, but they are a little on the greasy side…so only have a small piece and use paper towels to remove excess oil. These don’t taste like Turkey but more like a herb/nut crusted roast. But, it’s tasty and your family won’t know it’s not meat!

2. Green Beans

If you are going the traditional route and doing the green bean casserole, use low-sodium cream of mushroom soup, fresh green beans, only a small amount of cheese and fried onions. I usually just lightly saute fresh green beans in a pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until they are tender and then I sprinkle with slivered almonds and serve. Fresh green beans always taste better.

3. Sweet Potato

I usually don’t do a casserole for this because most are loaded with extra sugar and the canned yams are packed with syrup. Instead, I get whole yams or sweet potatoes (branch out and try a new variety of yam like Garnet, Japanese, etc) then, I bake them until tender, sprinkle with a small amount of butter (or you can do spray butter PAM), a little cinnamon and a few chopped pecans. For my family members that like marshmallows, I sprinkle a few on top and then broil the potatoes a minute or two more until they caramelize and brown on top. Keep it simple.

4. Salad

I usually do a basic green salad either with spinach, arugula or both. This year, I’m going to try this salad from Giada that I posted HERE.

5. Other Healthy Sides

I usually do a “relish tray” of black and green olives, pickles and pickled okra. These are just condiments but are all low in calories (just don’t get any high-sodium ones) and offer some flavor and kick to your meal. If you are going to do mashed potatoes or another “creamy” dish…use lowfat milk and limit butter and cheese. I personally try not do do too much bread, especially if I plan on eating pie..but if you can’t resist…do whole wheat rolls, not white rolls or baguettes. Roasted butternut squash, acorn squash or other fall vegetables can be great. All you need is a little olive oil for roasting them in the oven.

6. Pies

Pumpkin is the best choice here. If you make it, use organic plain pumpkin from a can or even fresh if you have the time. Apple, cherry and other fruit pies are second best and pecan is by far the worst! If you are going to have pie…just have a small sliver and not a huge piece. Another fun option is to make mini-pies so everyone has a smaller portion. I’m going to use these mini-pie dishes I found at Crate and Barrel.

Other Tips:

  • Workout! I’m running the TXU Houston Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning again (it’s not too late to sign up!). This is the perfect way to start off your day and burn an extra 300 (for 5k) to 600 (for 10k) calories before your day starts. If you aren’t the racing type, do your own walk or run, go for a bike ride or hit the gym. Get it out of the way in the morning so you feel better. Then, on Friday repeat your workout or recruit your friends and family for a post-turkey day workout! You’ll feel much better about that pie you ate…promise!
  • Remember, Thanksgiving Day is not an excuse to eat whatever you want. You don’t want to spend the rest of the weekend bloated and with a few extra pounds. Just make smart, healthy choices and use the day to spend time with friends and family. Food doesn’t have to be the main focus. Go to a movie, get outside and play or even do indoor board games or something fun and challenging.
  • You don’t want to over-eat or eat bad things, but at the same time…you should enjoy your meal and all the flavors of Fall. Make sure to incorporate lots of spices and herbs that are associated with Thanksgiving such as: sage, thyme, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice blend and poultry seasoning blend. You can add these spices and flavors to your dishes in place of extra fat and calories.
  • If you are traveling to visit family, make sure to eat healthy on the road. I always try to pack things to take with me so that I don’t have to stop at fast-food restaurants. Take a mini-cooler and pack fruit, nuts, cheese,whole wheat crackers, hard boiled eggs and other foods that won’t get soggy. I also make sure I drink plenty of water. If your options are only fast-food or convenience stores, you can still make healthy choices.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Your Trainer,


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