Thanksgiving (or Christmas and other Holidays) dinner isn’t only about the turkey. If you focus only on making the centerpiece healthy, you’ll be skipping over the part of the meal that has the most potential for improvement. While the turkey is the main dish, the sides are what contain the bulk of the calories. There are plenty of ingredients that you can use in some of your sides that will make them healthier.

Peel

To make your mashed potatoes healthier, leave the peel on. This adds vitamins, minerals and fiber. Extra fiber can make you feel full without eating as much. If you’re going to load your mashed potatoes up with dairy, use low fat sour cream, cream cheese and milk. Also replace butter or margarine with a vegetable spread.

Vegetable Spread

Butter/margarine can be replaced with a vegetable spread in anyone of your dishes. Instead of being produced from animal or trans fat, spreads are made using vegetable oils. These are low in saturated fats and high in unsaturated fats making them healthy and taste good. Unlike margarine, spreads contain no trans fat.

Stuffing

Whenever possible, use stuffing that’s made from whole wheat bread. With the popularity of healthy breads rising, it shouldn’t be hard to find whole wheat stuffing at your grocery store. Whole wheat, like the peel of the potato, will add nutrients and fiber to your stuffing.

Low Sodium

When you prepare stuffing that calls for broth, use the low sodium kind. Even broths that are low in sodium have way more than enough. You can further lower the amount of salt by diluting it with water. If the recipe calls for 2 cups of broth, use 1 cup of water and 1 cup of broth.

Vegetables

Also, don’t forget about your vegetables. Corn, peas and carrots are good examples. Incorporating vegetables into your dinner is a good idea no mater how you stick them in. Sometimes you can improve a less than healthy meal item by adding vegetables. If you can, try using fresh or frozen vegetables. Canned vegetables are also good but usually have a higher sodium content.

Salad

Always provide your guests with a salad next to their mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving is filled with high calorie foods. Eating a salad beforehand can cause you to feel full which will decrease your total calorie intake.

The Bottom Line

Making your sides even a little bit healthier will go a long way in improving the overall quality of your meal. Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season is probably the hardest time to be thinking about nutrition but If you can do it then, imagine what you can do the rest of the year.

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