A Low-Fat Thanksgiving: Yes, You Can!

low fat thanksgivingIndulging for the holidays is as much of a tradition as the annual weight gain. But if you don't want to feel the pudge this season, or your doctor tells you to cut out the fat at all costs, there are still a number of low-fat delicious options to serve at your family table.

So instead of stocking up on butter for your day of feasting, grab the olive oil and lots of vegetables, and hide the deep fat fryer. You can do that in the name of eating heart healthy, right?

From appetizer to dessert, here are some recipes to keep your arteries clear (or less clogged, anyway).


Sweet Potato Crostini

I've already written about this recipe in a previous post, and I've made it so much at my house that it's become a delicious staple. Low in fat, high in flavor, this starter is a seasonal win and a heart-healthy option as well.


You're in luck as turkey is already a lean meat. Skip the deep fat frying, don't stuff butter under the skin, and take the skin off altogether when it's time to chow down. Here are five ways to cook it up (just ignore the frying part) and you'll be good to go for the main course.

Broccoli à la Ina Garten

One of my favorite ways to prepare broccoli these days is this simple Ina Garten recipe. In order to keep it a little bit lighter, I lose the last olive oil toss and skimp on the Parmesan cheese. I also skip the basil leaves at the end to make it easier and occasionally ditch the pine nuts, even though I love them. However, for fancy dining purposes, I suggest you keep the pine nuts. I didn't notice much of a difference with or without the basil.

What you'll need:

4 to 5 pounds broccoli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I use a little less than 1/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (omit this or cut down for less oil in your diet), the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, and Parmesan. Serve hot.

Butternut Squash Gratin

Skip the mashed potatoes this year and go with a squash instead. I found this recipe in a vegetarian cookbook, and adapted it with a few tweaks. It's cooked with olive oil and you can sub herb and garlic broth for whole milk to keep it on the healthy side. I also substitute low-fat Swiss cheese for the Gruyere.

What you'll need:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced onion
4 thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons chopped sage or 2 teaspoons dried
Salt and freshly milled pepper
6 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Gruyere or Fontina (low-fat Swiss, or Fontina if you can find it)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heated whole milk or Herb and Garlic Broth (recipe below)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 2-quart gratin dish

Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, and sage and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Spread in the gratin dish, return the skillet to medium heat, and add the remaining oil.

Toss the squash in the flour, letting the excess fall away. Add it to the pan and cook until it begins to brown in places on both sides, about 7 minutes. Add the parsley, season with salt and plenty of pepper, and cook for 1 minute more. Layer the squash over the onions, cover with the cheese, then add the milk or broth. Cover and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover, add the bread crumbs, and bake until the top is browned and the liquid absorbed, about 25 minutes more.

Herb and Garlic Broth

What you'll need:

2 heads garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
2 cloves
6 large sage leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
6 thyme sprigs or 1/2 teaspoon dried
10 parsley branches
2 teaspoons salt

Peel, separate, and smash garlic cloves to open them up.

Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the tomato paste, and fry over medium heat for about a minute. Add the garlic, remaining ingredients, and 2 quarts water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the garlic cloves are soft, about 45 minutes. Strain. Press the garlic through the strainer with the back of a spoon into the broth or press it into a dish and use for another purpose.

No Crust Pumpkin Pie

If you want truly no- or low-fat desserts at your table, check out my favorite low-fat dessert list. But if you still want the pumpkin pie, this crustless version from All Recipes is better than some. Note, there are eggs so you're getting some fat. You just won't have the butter-laden crust to also contend with after you're already stuffed with these low-fat dinner items. Also, I'm substituting Stevia for sugar to decrease that particular indulgence.

What you'll need:

1/2 cup buttermilk baking mix
1 2/3 cups canned pumpkin
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1/3 cup milk
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar, or 1/2 teaspoon Stevia

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 10-inch fluted pie pan; dust with baking mix.

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, evaporated milk, milk, and eggs together. Stir in baking mix, pie spice, vanilla, and salt. Continue stirring while gradually adding the brown sugar and white sugar or Stevia. When the mixture is thoroughly blended, pour into the prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake for an additional 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean.

What do you do to keep Thanksgiving healthy?


Image via baskykes/Flickr

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