The holidays offer a time to gather around the table with our loved ones and, of course, to share a delicious meal. However, traditional holiday dishes can derail even the most devoted dieters. From the buttery mashed potatoes to the sugar-filled slices of pumpkin pie, navigating the nutritional value of traditional Thanksgiving dishes can be challenging, to say the least.
Thankfully, "Eating healthy during the holidays doesn't mean you need to forgo your favorite dishes," Adrienne Klein reassures us.
Meet the Expert
Adrienne Klein is a certified transformational nutrition coach at Thyroid Refresh, a support platform for those who need to follow a thyroid-specific diet and lifestyle.
Ahead, we asked her to weigh in on the five unhealthy holiday foods she would never eat (and what to make instead).
Mashed potatoes, a holiday staple, are often brimming with not-so-healthy ingredients that compromise the spud's nutritional value. "Potatoes are high in nutrients but are often weighed down with butter and cream at the Thanksgiving table," observes Klein.
The Healthier Swap: "Whip up those spuds but swap out the cream for chicken broth," the nutritionist advises. "Swap the butter with roasted garlic cloves for creaminess and flavor! You won't miss the old-fashioned mashed potatoes," she promises.
Green Bean Casserole
For a vegetable side dish, traditional green bean casserole packs a caloric punch, Klein notes. "This dish is usually made from processed canned cream of chicken soup, soy sauce, and fried onions." We probably don't need to tell you that none of those ingredients are great for you, but don't worry, you don't have to avoid the dish altogether.
The Healthier Swap: "Sauté fresh green beans in some olive oil or, my favorite, pastured schmaltz and high-quality salt like Himalayan pink salt," Klein recommends.
"Cranberries are high in antioxidants, but this traditional dish is loaded with added sugar, and the canned version is chock-full of high-fructose corn syrup that negates the fruit's health potential," Klein points out.
The Healthier Swap: Making your own healthy, homemade version is easier than you think, says Klein. She recommends using cranberries, oranges (juice and zest), cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg.
Candied Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows
"Sweet potatoes are already sweet, so why are we drowning them in brown sugar and marshmallows?" Klein asks. She has a point. If you love sweet potatoes as much as we do, you will definitely be happy to swap out the version you know and love for a much healthier version that won't make you feel like you need to lie down after a few bites.
The Healthier Swap: "This lovely root vegetable truly shines when roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and salt," says the nutritionist. "Perfection!"
"Such a delicious tradition but not so healthy. The pumpkin part is, but the crust, sugary milk, and other added sugar outweigh the squash's good character," according to Klein. "Gluten and dairy can affect the thyroid negatively. Gluten is the number one trigger for thyroid patients, and 80% report feeling better with a gluten-free diet."
The Healthier Swap: Make a crustless pumpkin pie instead and you'll forget that this dish is supposed to have crusts. The best part is definitely the filling, so why not focus on that?