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Healthy Thanksgiving dinner swaps

Mashed sweet potato


Traditional: Spirit-based cocktails, like martinis, or fruit-juice based libations, beer and soda

Healthy upgrade: Wine, gluten-free beer and mineral water

  1. Antioxidant-rich wines — red, sparkling, or Champagne — are linked to improved cardiovascular health when consumed in moderation. For example, Sardinian Cannonau has the highest level of antioxidants of all red wines.
  2. Gluten-free beers — those with no wheat, barley, rye and malt — will be a welcome option for guests who have a wheat or gluten sensitivity. Try Green’s, which uses alternative grains such as sorghum, millet, rice and buckwheat in their gluten-free beers.
  3. Mineral water, plain or spritzed with lemon or lime, is the best non-alcoholic option — and one where you’ll wake up hangover-free the next morning.

The turkey

Traditional: Frozen commercial supermarket turkey

Healthy upgrade: Local: Buy your bird from a local farm or farmers’ market. Free-range organic turkey: Order in advance from a local farm or online. Heritage-breed turkey (based on the first breed of turkey that actually existed in the U.S.): Purchase online from Heritage Foods USA. The meat will be leaner and more flavorful.

Mashed potatoes

Traditional: Mashed white potatoes with store-bought cream and butter

Healthy upgrade: Mashed sweet potatoes. Bake, peel and mash with grass-fed butter or coconut oil. Add minced ginger root, freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon, if desired.


Traditional: White-flour and butter-based gravy

Healthy upgrade: Use plain turkey jus (natural juices), or thicken turkey drippings with a little arrowroot and water or chicken stock.

Cranberry sauce

Traditional: The popular Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce contains 21 grams of sugar and 25 grams of carbs per 1/4-cup serving — and you can be sure that you’re getting a good dose of BPA (bisphenol-A), an endocrine disruptor in the lining of the can. (Babies and children are especially sensitive to the effects of BPA.)

Healthy upgrade: Raw cranberry sauce. Sweeten fresh, whole cranberries naturally, with one navel orange, orange zest and coconut nectar, or raw honey. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. An equivalent quarter-cup serving is relatively low in carbs and sugar, and totally BPA-free.

Green bean casserole

Traditional: A classic green bean casserole typically calls for condensed cream of mushroom soup and French-fried onions, and is chock-full of sodium, preservatives and additives — a recipe for raising your blood pressure.

Healthy upgrade: Steam green beans and toss in a vinaigrette of extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and fresh chopped herbs.

Pumpkin pie

Traditional: Pumpkin pie filling, typically sweetened with sugar and evaporated milk, is usually poured into a white-flour crust and served with processed whipped cream.

Healthy upgrade: Use a ground nut-based crust, like hazelnut or almond flour. For the filling, mix an organic pumpkin puree with desired spices and sweeten with a minimal amount of raw honey or Grade B maple syrup. Use coconut milk instead of regular milk to add creaminess. Another option is to serve pumpkin souffles (think of it as pumpkin pie without a crust!)

Desserts (other)

Traditional: Apple pie, pecan pie

Healthy upgrade: Baked apple compote served with raw honey-roasted walnuts (or nuts of choice)

More on healthy eating

Healthy holiday diet strategies
Holiday diet tips to keep you trim
How to make your meals healthier this holiday

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