Great New Guilt-Free Ways to Recreate Classic Thanksgiving Dishes


Keep your routine through the holidays with these simple, guilt-free swaps.: Photo Credit: PeoplesImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus collection/Getty Images

Craving all the indulgence of a Thanksgiving meal without the high-calorie tag attached to it? You can cut down on fat without sacrificing flavor. Whether you want to plan a festive holiday spread that doesn’t leave a sluggish feel or to accommodate guests with specific dietary needs, here are some ways to lighten the meal from appetizers through dessert:

Appetizers: Dip with No Chips

On the starter front, rely on seafood and vegetables to fill the void. For example, cook cleaned and peeled shrimp until done. Marinate overnight in a dish with a heavy drizzle of olive oil and chopped fresh herbs like chives and rosemary. Serve on wooden skewers. Make a ranch-inspired dip with Greek yogurt, a touch of low-fat mayonnaise, garlic powder, fresh parsley, and fresh chives. Add buttermilk to thin out. Display in a bowl on a platter fitted around blanched vegetables like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and more.

Main Dishes: Beyond the Turkey

As a main dish alternative, a whole turkey breast has a quicker cooking stint in the oven and less fat than the dark meat pieces on a whole turkey. Looking for a vegetarian centerpiece? Scoop seeds from a three-pound pumpkin. Layer the inside with croutons and various cheeses like Gruyere and herbed goat. Bake until the pumpkin is fork-tender, about two-and-a-half hours. For a smaller vessel and shorter cooking time, use a few acorn squashes.

Everyone adores a pot pie and one filled to the rim with vegetables is no exception. Top with a few phyllo dough layers for a lighter twist. The meaty mushroom can also handle being the star of the show, like stuffed portobello mushrooms or a risotto with spinach and shiitake mushrooms.

Side Dishes: New Twists on Old Favorites

Try a lighter touch with traditional side dishes, such as a green bean casserole without all the calories: Roast green beans until crinkly. Thinly slice a few onions and saute on medium heat until caramelized, about 1 hour. Serve green beans topped with the onion goodness.

Roasted Brussels sprouts with just a hint of crumbled crisp bacon are always a hit. Creamed greens like kale or Swiss chard can take a lighter turn with fat-free cream cheese and skim milk. Sliced tomatoes sprinkled with Parmesan, Italian seasoning and panko breadcrumbs and quickly broiled make an easy and bright side dish.

A bread-based stuffing can be swapped out for grains, like quinoa and butternut squash stuffing or a wild rice and dried fruit one. Substitute mashed cauliflower or celery root for mashed potatoes; lighten up with fat-free buttermilk. Nix the marshmallow topping on a sweet potato casserole, and instead top with maple syrup-glazed pecans for sweetness and a crunch factor.

Desserts: Treats without the Guilt

For a walk on the lighter side of dessert, skip the pie in favor of fruit-based treats like poached pears stuffed with a dot of mascarpone cheese and maple syrup. Or go with airy pavlovas — puffy meringues filled with mixed berries or other fruit. Another dessert that relies on the low-calorie egg white is angel food cake. Create a winter take on shortcake with a compote of pears or figs. Top on cake slices with a small dollop of whipped cream or sour cream.

With these healthy but still scrumptious twists on Thanksgiving favorites, the holiday will be both delicious — and light.

About the Author

New York City-based Andrea Lynn is the author of The I Love Trader Joe's College Cookbook and The Artisan Soda Workshop, and is also a recipe developer and freelance writer.