Thanksgiving is a time to gather around a table with loved ones to give thanks 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," reassures Adrienne Klein, a certified transformational nutrition coach at Thyroid Refresh, a support platform for those who need to follow a thyroid-specific diet and lifestyle. "As a thyroid disease sufferer, there are also some foods that can trigger symptoms, and it's the last thing I want on such a joyful holiday."
Ahead, we asked the nutritionist to weigh in on the five unhealthy Thanksgiving foods she would never eat (and what to make instead).
Mashed potatoes, a Thanksgiving 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, says Klein. "This dish is usually made from processed canned cream of chicken soup, soy sauce, and fried onions," the nutritionist tells MyDomaine. "Soy sauce for thyroid patients is a no-no. Besides being full of gluten (also a thyroid no), soy has been documented to decrease the production of the thyroid gland," she explains. In addition, "lactose (dairy) is known to affect thyroid patients as the second biggest trigger."
The Healthier Swap: "Sauté fresh green beans in some olive oil or, my favorite, pastured schmaltz and high-quality salt like Himalayan pink salt," recommends Klein.
"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 negating the fruit's health potential," points out Klein.
The Healthier Swap: Making your own healthy, homemade version is easier than you think, says Klein.
24 oz. cranberries
An orange (juice and zest)
A tsp. of cinnamon
A tsp. of ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Candied Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows
"Sweet potatoes are already sweet, so why are we drowning them in brown sugar and marshmallows?" asks Klein. "Just one cup has 37 grams of added sugar!"
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 custard. (Klein's recipe below.)
15 oz. pumpkin
1/2 cup coconut cream
4 eggs (beaten)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. of pumpkin pie spiced Stevia