Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Healthy Options for Thanksgiving


By Emily Zoid, Peoria City/County Health Department

The Big Day
Thanksgiving is a time to actively think and reflect on the many blessings that we have. One of the biggest blessings is spending the day with family and close friends while enjoying a day filled with delicious food. Thanksgiving can be a hard day to count calories, limit portions, and even eat healthy. This Thanksgiving put your mind at ease about calories and what foods are being served. Try to create healthy alternatives or swap ingredients to help decrease calories, fats, and create nutrient dense dishes. Here are some of the common food dishes that are served at Thanksgiving with a little twist to help create a healthier meal for you and your family.

Most dips call for sour cream. A great swap for this would be to do non-fat yogurt instead. Non-fat yogurt, per serving, has less calories and fat. Another great swap is non-fat Greek yogurt because it increases the protein per serving in the dish. Instead of using potato chips, use crunchy veggies to dip such as carrots or celery. If you are really wanting to step outside your comfort zone you can make your own veggie chips at home with some oil, salt, and pepper. Bake them in the oven to create a crunchy lower fat and sodium chip.

Sweet Potato Casserole
The classic sweet potato casserole is made with canned sweet potatoes and have extra sugar added into the can. On top of that, many times marshmallows are added to the top which provide extra sugars and calories. One great option is to roast fresh sweet potatoes with olive oil to cut down on sugars.

Mashed Potatoes
A sure staple at the dinner table are mashed potatoes with butter, salt, and other additions to make it taste yummy, but maybe not so healthy. A great way to make your mashed potatoes healthier is to use skim milk or even Greek yogurt instead of butter or cream to lower the calories and fat. Another great addition is pureed cauliflower. You can either swap half of the potatoes with cauliflower or make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Cauliflower is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.

What can we say—turkey is a mainstay for Thanksgiving. It’s a great source of protein, low-fat, and rich in many vitamins and minerals. No subs here.

The traditional dinner isn’t complete without stuffing. Instead of using white bread, white rice, or refined corn bread, make the swap for more whole grains. Use whole-wheat bread, whole grain cornbread, or brown rice. The whole grains will help to fill you up with a smaller portion by providing you with fiber.

Don’t forget the dessert—pumpkin pie. Pumpkin has a variety of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and iron which is great support for your immune system. One swap you can do is using low fat or no fat evaporated milk instead. This will help to lower calories and how much fat is in the pie.

Thanks for a Healthier Day
Eating on this special day does not need to be filled with extra calories, salt, or fat. By switching an ingredient or two in your traditional recipes you can create a nutrient dense dish. This Thanksgiving put your mind at ease by creating these healthier options for the big meal.

Emily Zoid is Nutritionist at Peoria City/County Health Department for the WIC Program. Emily holds a Master of Science in Nutrition degree and helps plan nutritious meals for families, while helping them choose healthy options geared just for them. Visit the Peoria City/County Health Department webpage at for more information on Community Health Improvement Planning including Healthy Eating Active Living.