Lighter alternatives for Thanksgiving side dishes

Are you trying to keep your Thanksgiving dinner from being a calorie-bomb, while still having traditional foods? Here’s my one hot tip: if it’s not something that you LOVE, make it differently. You can have any or all of the traditional foods, but use alternate cooking methods that lighten the food up.

Case in point: neither Barb nor I LOVE green bean casserole (you know… the kind with all the cream of mushroom soup and fried onions on top?) So if we serve green beans at all, we are inclined to make them less loaded. You could just steam them and serve them with a few dabs of butter. (Or completely bare, if you like.) Or you could do a quick stir-fry with them, in a few teaspoons of peanut oil, and then toss them with a TBSP of toasted sesame seeds and a TBSP or so of soy sauce.

Appetizers: Do you NEED appetizers? (WE do. I’m just askin’. :-D) Do they need to involve bacon? If they do, do you really need the other thing that calls for cream cheese and sour cream dip? Could you set out a really LARGE platter of veggies, and then a small plate of the calorie bombs? What about a plate of apple slices? Does it have to be SIX kinds of appetizers? Or could you do TWO?

Breads: We have often had family holiday meals at which there are at least THREE baskets of different types of breads, including butter-bomb croissants and those strangely addicting Hawaiian rolls. Try making a loaf of sourdough, which is lower in fat (although still tempting, if you are a carb-aholic!) Try serving just one kind of bread. Try making the bread a basket of bread-sticks (that have NOT been soaked in butter!)

Stuffing: Instead of using the butter your grandmother insisted on using to make stuffing, try using chicken stock instead, with maybe 2 TBSP of butter for the flavor. Skip the ground sausage (unless you LOVE it!)

Cranberry sauce: If you don’t love cranberry sauce, don’t have it at all. Definitely skip the canned stuff, which I think is appalling. Or, serve it in a little jelly dish with a tiny spoon, as a chutney for topping breadsticks.

Sweet potatoes: Try serving these plain, or with just a few dabs of butter and a whisper of cinnamon-sugar over the top. Or go another direction and sprinkle them with Mexican Tajin, or Cajun seasoning, or cumin. Here’s a quick and easy Jamaican-inspired take my family likes a lot:

Jamaican Curried Sweet Potatoes

Peel 6 medium sweet potatoes and cut them into 1″ wheels. Boil until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Cut wheels into quarters and allow to stand.

Dice 1 medium yellow onion. Sautée in 2 TBSP olive oil until onion is translucent. Add 2-4 tsp. curry powder (depending on how spicy you like it,) and 1 tsp. turmeric. Stir well until the onions are completely coated. Add 1/2 c. white wine. Stir until the spices and wine mix well.

Add sweet potato chunks to pan, along with 1 c. toasted nuts (I’ve used cashews, which are my favorite, but I’ve also used slivered almonds, whole walnuts, and even cocktail mixed nuts.) Stir in, and allow mixture to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Drizzle the juice of 2 limes over the top and serve.

And last, about dessert: there is no rule that says you have to have 3 kinds of pie. In fact, the rules don’t specifically mention pie at all. You could do fruit sorbet, if you wanted. Or go European, with a bread board with a few kinds of nice cheese and some fruit.

Thanksgiving is a special celebration for family, so by all means, make it celebratory! But don’t think that you HAVE to make every dish a bomb. Look for small ways to save calories, skip the traditional foods that you don’t love, and resolve to enjoy what you eat. It won’t be a point-free meal, but it’ll be a lot less heavy, and you might just be able to take that walk you’re always threatening to take after dinner.

Laura