We know…we’ve been talking alot about the holidays around here, but what can we say? ‘Tis the season! November is humming right along, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning your family’s menu for (literally) the biggest meal of the year. Now we don’t know about you, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, we’re all about the side dishes. Unfortunately, those items can be some of the least healthy on the table. Think sticks of butter, cream and sugar-laden sauces, and mounds of empty carbohydrates. Sure, Thanksgiving is only one day, and we definitely believe in enjoying it to the fullest, but if you’re looking to stay on track with your family’s healthy eating plan this holiday season, Self Magazine’s former “Eat Like Me” blogger and regisered dietitian Cristin Dillon-Jones offers some great tips for lightening up your side dishes so you can spend the day after shopping those Black Friday sales instead of sleeping through them.

1. Stuffing – Look for a healthy boxed stuffing (Cristin reccommends Bell’s) or load it up with veggies like celery and onion if you’re making your own. Choose the healthiest meat you can, such as natural chicken sausage free of nitrites. It can be hard to find whole wheat bread for stuffing, but doing half-white, half-whole wheat is a good compromise. Cornbread stuffing is another option that is slightly healthier because stoneground corn is a whole grain.

2. Mashed Potatoes – The best substitution for your taters would be mashed sweet potatoes, but if that won’t cut it in your house, try red potatoes and incorporate the skins for added fiber and nutrients. Use a ricer in order to achieve the smoothest consistency without adding lots of butter or cream. Mix in some of the starchy potato water along with some lowfat milk and a small amount of butter (2-3 tablespoons). Don’t forget the salt and pepper!

3. Green Bean Casserole – Although this side dish is technically a vegetable, the addition of a creamy sauce and fried onion topping increases the fat and calorie content considerably. With so many other delicious items to splurge on, it might be a good idea to just steam the green beans instead (did we really just type that?) That way, there’s at least one option on the table that is absolutely guilt-free! If the casserole is one of your staples, substitute a lighter cream of mushroom soup (like Campbell’s Healthy Request) and make sure the fried onions are trans-fat free (no hydrogenated oils).

4. Dinner Rolls – With so many starches already in the meal, we could probably skip the rolls altogether and not even miss them! Since so many families do serve them, the best substitution is to choose whole wheat rolls to get a little more fiber, limit your intake to one, and go easy on the butter. Better yet, forget the butter and try dipping them in the gravy that’s already on your turkey!

5. Cranberry Sauce – Cranberry sauce is made of cranberries and sugar…but mostly just sugar. Consider saving your sugar for the delicious dessert spread, or try making a cranberry chutney. This recipe would probably still require a bit of sugar, but not much compared to the amount in canned cranberry sauce!

6. Creamed Spinach – Just like with the green bean casserole, creamed spinach is an easy fix – forget the cream! Sautee it in olive oil with some minced garlic for a healthy, flavorful side dish that may even taste better than it’s creamed counterpart. For an extra boost, top the spinach with some shaved parmesan cheese just before serving.

7. Squash – Fall is the season of squash. Whether it’s acorn, butternut, carnival or buttercup – pick your favorite, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and it’s ready to roast! 45 minutes in the oven is a safe bet for most, and it can then be cut in smaller portions with the skin still on before serving. If you have more time, you can remove the skin, cube it, toss it with olive oil salt, and pepper, and roast it that way. Boiling and then mashing the squash is another healthy method and you can season it with a small amount of brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Don’t be too heavy handed with these, though. Squash is delicious on its own, and you want to be able to taste it!

8. Candied Yams – Some recipes for this Thansgiving favorite call for corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar and marshmallows! That’s a sugar overload, and you haven’t even had dessert yet! If you like a little glaze on your sweet potatoes, make them with orange juice, honey, and a little bit of brown sugar and roast the cubes slowly so the glaze has time to thicken.

Remember, you don’t have to try all of these substitutions this year. Pick the ones that sound the best and most feasible for you and your family. It’s a holiday, so you don’t have to be 100% healthy. Our mantra is eat everything you absolutely love, skip the things you dont, and enjoy the day!

Source: www.self.com "8 Traditional Thanksgiving Sides Get a Healthy Makeover"

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