Healthy Dinner Recipes

Gobble Up This Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Feast

These lighter Thanksgiving recipes are so darn tasty, even your pickiest family members won’t complain.

Thanksgiving is a day when you’re practically encouraged to break out some elastic waistband pants, gorge yourself on high-calorie foods, and then lounge on the couch until it’s time to dig into leftovers. And while some embrace this as the perfect excuse for a massive cheat meal, others find these temptations nearly as stressful as their in-laws.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. With some simple tricks for cutting calorie corners, you can still serve versions of the traditional menu items you and your loved ones crave — and these lighter recipes are so darn tasty, even your pickiest family members won’t complain.

“There’s no doubt that the scents and tastes of certain foods can conjure up mouthwatering memories of holidays gone by,” says Dr. Jacquie Lavin, head of nutrition and research at Slimming World, the U.K. and Ireland’s leading independent slimming organization. “The great news is that you don’t have to give up those foods if you’re trying to keep an eye on your waistline. Lighter versions of your favorite turkey, sweet potato, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie recipes can all be on the menu — it’s important to never feel deprived.”

After all, knowing that you’re not only eating healthier yourself but also helping your family to be healthier will give everyone even more to be thankful for this holiday season.  

ROSEMARY-LEMON-RUBBED TURKEY WITH CARAMELIZED ONION AND GARLIC GRAVY

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If you’ve been assigned to cook the turkey this year, this recipe’s fresh herbs and spices are sure to spread a welcoming aroma throughout your home.

Makes 8 servings

Ready in about three hours and 25 minutes, plus 15 minutes of standing time

 

Turkey Ingredients

1 turkey (10-12 lb)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, cut into wedges, plus extra for serving
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
1 bulb garlic, top and bottom cut off to expose cloves
3 sprigs fresh sage, thyme and/or rosemary, plus extra for serving
spray oil

 

Gravy Ingredients

2 large sweet onions, halved and cut into ¼-inch thick slices
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chopped fresh sage

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove neck and giblets from turkey. Rinse turkey body cavity and pat dry with paper towels. In small bowl, combine parsley, lemon zest, rosemary and minced garlic, then season with salt and black pepper. Use your fingers to loosen skin from turkey breast and legs, and spread herb mixture under skin (over breast and legs). Place lemon, onions, garlic bulbs and herb sprigs loosely into cavity. Skewer neck skin to back. Tuck drumstick ends under band of skin across tail (if present), or tie drumsticks to tail using 100 percent cotton kitchen string. Twist wing tips under back.

2. Place turkey, breast-side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan. Lightly spray surface of turkey with spray oil. Sprinkle with additional salt and black pepper. Insert oven thermometer into center of inside thigh muscle. (Thermometer should not touch bone.) Cover turkey loosely with foil and roast two and half hours. Remove foil, then cut band of skin or string between drumsticks so thighs cook evenly. Roast 30 to 45 minutes more, or until thermometer registers at least 175 degrees in thigh. (Drumsticks should move easily in their sockets.)

3. Meanwhile, prepare gravy: Lightly spray large nonstick skillet with spray oil and heat over medium-low heat. Place onions and garlic in skillet and season with salt. Cook, covered, 13 to 15 minutes, or until onions are tender and release some liquid, stirring occasionally. Uncover skillet and increase heat to medium-high. Cook five minutes more, or until onions are golden, stirring frequently.

4. In blender or food processor, combine caramelized onion mixture, stock and vinegar and season with black pepper. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Stir in sage. (Reheat gravy before serving, if needed.)

5. Remove turkey from oven and cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before carving. Remove lemon, onions, garlic and herb sprigs from cavity and discard. Transfer turkey to cutting board and carve, removing and discarding skin. Serve with gravy. 

GINGER-PEAR CRANBERRY SAUCE

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This traditional side dish blends different flavors with the classic cranberry to create a delicious, robust topping.

Makes 8 servings

Ready in about 20 minutes, plus one hour of cooling time

 

Ingredients

spray oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
8 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1 medium pear, cored and finely chopped
2 tbsp no-calorie granulated sweetener

 

Directions

1. Lightly spray medium saucepan with spray oil. Add onions, ginger and pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat five to seven minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.

2. Add cranberries and ⅔ cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently four minutes, or until cranberry skins pop and mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. Transfer to bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in pear and no-calorie granulated sweetener. 

CRUSTLESS PUMPKIN PIE

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This pumpkin pie dessert calls for fat-free evaporated milk, no-calorie granulated sugar, and fresh ingredients like ginger and cinnamon. It may be crustless, but it’s full of taste.

Makes 8 servings

Ready in one hour, plus one hour of cooling time (Note: This includes 30 minutes of freezing time for topping while pie cools.)

 

Pie Ingredients

spray oil
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
5 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup fat-free evaporated milk
4 tbsp no-calorie granulated sweetener
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting
2 tsp orange zest
¼ tsp salt

 

Topping Ingredients

½ cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp no-calorie granulated sweetener

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray 9-inch pie plate with spray oil. Blend together remaining pie ingredients and pour into prepared pie plate.

2. Place roasting pan on oven rack. Place pie plate in roasting pan and add enough hot tap water to roasting pan to fill it ½-inch deep. (This will prevent pie from burning.) Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into middle of pie comes out clean. Let cool completely.

3. Make whipped topping: Pour evaporated milk into mixing bowl. Freeze 30 minutes, or until soft crystals form throughout milk. Add vanilla and no-calorie granulated sweetener. Using electric mixer, beat mixture on high speed two to three minutes, or until soft peaks form. Serve immediately with pie and dust with cinnamon before serving.   

SWEET POTATO GRATIN

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Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year for sweet potatoes since their peak season falls from late October to December. This recipe includes a touch of nutmeg to get you in the holiday spirit.

Makes 8 servings

Ready in about two hours and 10 minutes, plus 15 minutes of standing time

 

Ingredients

spray oil
2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1½ lb russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 yellow or white sweet onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
½ tsp grated fresh nutmeg
¼ cup chicken stock or broth
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, for serving

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a 2- to 2½-quart baking dish with spray oil. Arrange half sweet potatoes, russet potatoes and onions in dish. Season with salt, black pepper and half the nutmeg. Repeat to make another layer. Drizzle broth over potato mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake, covered, one hour and 40 minutes.

2. Uncover and increase heat to 475 degrees. Roast 10 to 15 minutes more, or until top is nicely browned and potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Let stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.   

SKILLET GREEN BEANS WITH MUSHROOMS AND CANADIAN BACON

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Your Thanksgiving menu could really use a new twist on the tired green bean casserole, and this skillet dish is perfect. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to really spice things up.

Makes 8 servings

Ready in about 45 minutes

 

Ingredients

1½ lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
spray oil
3 oz Canadian bacon, cut into very thin strips
1½ lb button, cremini and/or shiitake mushrooms, sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp dried marjoram
pinch of cayenne pepper

 

Directions

1. In large saucepan, cook green beans in enough lightly salted boiling water to cover, seven to nine minutes, or until crisp-tender, then drain. Transfer to large bowl of ice water, then drain.

2. Lightly spray very large skillet with spray oil. Over medium-high heat, cook Canadian bacon until nicely browned and sizzling, about two minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

3. Add mushrooms, garlic, marjoram and cayenne pepper to skillet, then season with salt. Cook until mushrooms are tender and liquid has evaporated, five to seven minutes. Return beans to skillet and heat through. Top with frizzled Canadian bacon to serve.