Let's be honest...the Thanksgiving feast doesn't just last one day -- it marks the beginning of a free-for-all eating season that lasts through New Year's. A time when we celebrate less, not more, structure in our food lives. However, the holiday food fest doesn't have to derail any work you've done feeding your family healthier meals.
As The Sneaky Chef, I’m known for hiding healthy foods in everyone’s favorite meals – and one of my key “methods of disguise” is simply adding pureed vegetables to traditional comfort foods. Research now validates this method as a way to cut calories and increase vegetable intake for kids and adults alike. In a recent study, researchers at Penn State found that by “adding puréed vegetables to favorite foods, children consumed nearly twice as many vegetables and 11 percent fewer calories over the course of a day.”
Don't worry, I'm not going to suggest cutting out pumpkin pie or not serving creamy mashed potatoes. But I am going to suggest making small alterations to your already loved and anticipated Thanksgiving recipes. Even the most traditional dishes offer lots of great hiding places for us Sneaky Chefs to slip in the good stuff, cut calories, and enhance nutrition and flavor.
So who says we can't have our pumpkin pie and eat it too? Just follow some of my simple tips and sneaky swaps below!
Sneaky Roasted Squash and Apple Soup:
Everyone loves a hearty autumn soup as a first course, so don't leave out this family favorite! But do leave out the heavy cream as the added fat calories just get in the way of your delicious delight. Use evaporated skim milk instead, and add some carrot or white bean puree to thicken this creamy soup.
No Thanksgiving meal is complete without gravy, but it can load on the fat calories. In my sneaky gravy, I use pureed lentils and less pan drippings to cut the fat in traditional gravy by a whopping 72%, while adding a depth of hearty flavor as well as a great dose of fiber and nutrition. To further thicken gravy, substitute whole grain pastry flour for white flour – the whole grain pastry flour retains the fiber and nutrients of regular whole grain flour, but has a much lighter texture so works magically in soups, stews, or your baked goods. You can find whole grain pastry flour at Whole Foods Market or Amazon.
Sneaky Mashed Potatoes:
One of my favorite tricks for reducing fat in almost any dish is to add a “flavor decoy” – this is a burst of bold flavor that you know people love – make roasted garlic, parmesan cheese, chives, or even real bacon bits the hero of your mashed potatoes, so you can use less butter and heavy cream.
I also substitute low-fat plain Greek yogurt for the heavy cream and use extra virgin olive oil in place of some of the butter - it's delicious and so much better for you! For an added boost of nutrients, I include pureed cauliflower, which also provides a beautiful taste and texture.
A special treat for the kids: Sneaky Temples
As we’re often blessed to be surrounded by children at our table, let's try to make them happy without causing a sugar rush that can interfere with the tranquility of this holiday! If your kids are anything like mine, they will love and appreciate anything special you make for them. But instead of providing a common Shirley Temple filed with color dyes and sugars, why not make them a Sneaky Temple? Merely swap ginger ale (which is high in sugars) for plain seltzer and swap out the grenadine (made with food dye) for real pomegranate juice! For extra pizzazz, place a real cherry or strawberry in each glass, and let them enjoy this fun mocktail.
Finally, Yummy Sneaky Pumpkin Pie:
If you’re not starting with fresh pumpkin (and not many of us are), one big trick here is to always use 100% pure canned pumpkin, as opposed to canned Pumpkin Pie Mix, which is filled with unnecessary sugars. You can, however, save time and money by using a pumpkin pie spice blend (which combines cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg) to add the traditional flavor to your pumpkin can. Another trick is to substitute vanilla low-fat yogurt for sweetened condensed milk (which has tons of sugars and even corn syrup) and/or blend in some tofu or carrot/sweet potato puree with the pumpkin for a great texture and boost of nutrients. Follow you own recipe and eat to your heart's content with no guilt!
Here’s to a healthy, happy Thanksgiving, and remember to “Treat your family like friends and your friends like family.” – Anonymous