Diet-friendly recipes for an all-inclusive Thanksgiving
By: Suzanne Corbett
Thanksgiving Day for many of us is a time to over-indulge in the pleasures of the table. It is a day on which most of us toss dietary cares aside, but due to health concerns such as diabetes or celiac disease, there are many people who cannot afford that luxury. Others are committed to specific diets that place restrictions on the foods they will eat. For the person hosting Thanksgiving dinner, those situations can pose a challenge.
“When hosting Thanksgiving or any dinner, we need to be aware of the special needs people bring to the table,” said Roberta Duyff, author of the “American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide.”
It is important to know the food restrictions people have, whether they are for health or religious reasons. The host can begin by asking guests if there are any foods they cannot eat, then proceed by planning a menu that includes dishes everyone can enjoy.
For example, the classic vegetable trio enjoyed by Native Americans – squash, beans and corn – fits perfectly into any Thanksgiving menu and fits also into the paleo (aka “caveman”) diet and into a low-fat diet, even offering the added benefit of dietary fiber.
To satisfy guests on low-fat diets or those who are gluten-intolerant, roast the turkey un-stuffed, keeping dressing and gravy separate. For the vegetarian, try including an unusual vegetable casserole or unique rice dish.
“There’s nothing wrong with mashed potatoes – just leave the skins on for extra fiber,” Duyff said. “The issue about potatoes is not to load them with a lot of butter and gravy.”
In fact, according to Duyff, preparing a Thanksgiving feast everyone can enjoy is simply a matter of how foods are prepared.
“Simple changes, such as lightening up on the butter and gravy, or substituting healthier ingredients such as almonds for French-fried onion rings, or choosing low-fat cheeses, can make a big difference,” Duyff said.
Thanksgiving brings family and friends around the table to celebrate the joys of the harvest and enjoy one another’s company. Being aware of everyone’s needs and adapting recipes accordingly will result in a satisfying meal that can be enjoyed by all.
“My best advice: Don’t eat more than you need, and enjoy the conversation at the table,” Duyff said. “It’s time to be thankful for food and the people we share it with.”
To fill out this year’s menu with a few healthier options that do not sacrifice traditional flavors, try one or more of the following recipes. Each is designed to satisfy a variety of dietary restrictions.
Libby’s crustless pumpkin pie
Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the pumpkin pie. For decades, home cooks have depended on the timeless pumpkin pie recipe on the back of the Libby’s can. In an effort to address those on low-fat, low-sugar or gluten-free diets, Libby’s has taken its classic recipe and developed a no-crust version of its famous pie.
Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup granulated sugar*
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce can Libby’s 100 percent
1 12-ounce can fat-free evaporated milk
Low-fat or sugar-free
whipped topping, if desired
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round, glass pie pan with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves. Add eggs, pumpkin and evaporated milk and whisk together until smooth.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until set. Pie is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped topping, if desired.
Makes one pie, yielding 8 servings
* For those needing sugar alternatives, substitute with sugar replacements recommended for cooking and baking, such as Splenda.
Fabrizio’s green bean casserole
With this recipe, Four Seasons St. Louis Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi gives the traditional green bean casserole an Italian accent. Home cooks can modify the recipe to fit the needs of those wanting to cut calories and fat. Simply adjust and replace problem ingredients with a healthier choice. For example, use a low-fat cheese, swap olive oil for butter, or use almonds in place of the French-fried onion rings.
Subtle substitutions can make this recipe a winner for diabetics, vegetarians and the gluten-sensitive.
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced oven-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups green beans, cooked in
low-fat/low-sodium chicken broth,
or steamed until tender
1 cup cannellini white beans
(canned or cooked fresh)
1 10-3/4-ounce can cream of
1 2.8-ounce can French-fried onions
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (full-flavor, low-fat or fat-free)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter in a large skillet placed over medium-high heat. Sauté diced onions and mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, white beans and tomatoes; season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a greased, 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Top the casserole with the cheddar cheese and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted. Garnish with fried onions.
Makes 8-10 servings
* Look for soup that is low in fat and low in sodium. Check gluten content, as soups often use gluten as thickeners.
Savory mushroom brown rice pilaf with cranberries
This recipe from Roberta Duyff combines harvest flavors with whole grain goodness and works for those on a paleo or “smart-carb” diet.
1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
1 leek, sliced
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
(cremini, shiitake, portobello, etc.)
1 cup brown rice
3/4 cup chopped pecans or
2 tablespoons fresh thyme,
or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
2.5 cups (20 ounces) canned
less-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Salt, to taste
Heat oil in large, non-stick saucepan over medium heat; add leek. Cook and stir about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, brown rice, nuts and thyme. Cook about 1 minute more, until leek and mushrooms are tender. Stir in broth and cranberries. Bring to a boil. Cover; turn heat to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until brown rice is tender.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Eating like a caveman means more than eating grilled and roasted meats. Cavemen ate their vegetables, especially root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and beets, along with the favorite Thanksgiving root: the potato. This recipe, courtesy of Naked Grape Winery, will please guests who are following the popular paleo diet as well as those who are vegetarian.
3 medium red potatoes, cut into
2 cups fresh or frozen whole
1 pound celery root (celeriac),
peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 rutabaga, peeled and
cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium red onions, cut into 8 wedges
2 parsnips, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray cooking spray in a large roasting pan or shallow baking dish. Place all ingredients in pan, and toss to combine. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Toss, and continue to roast until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more.
Makes 8-10 servings