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Our Blog: November 16, 2018

Tips to Lighten Up Thanksgiving Dinner + Creative Ways to Eat Leftovers!

By Nicole Spain, Registered Dietitian

The majority of Americans will not only stuff their turkey this November, but will also overstuff themselves at Thanksgiving dinner! Here are a few tips to lighten your holiday meal, plus a Grow Fit recipe that will really shine on your holiday dinner table:

  • Mashed Potatoes: It’s no secret that reduced fat Greek yogurt is a good substitute for sour cream in dips, but it is a secret that it can replace butter and milk when making mashed potatoes. Add a small amount of vegetable or chicken broth for flavor and moisture, if needed.
  • Green Bean Casserole: If you aren’t inclined to skip making this casserole, then use reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup and reduced-fat cheddar cheese in place their full fat counterparts. And since Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest, you may want to consider using fresh green beans in this recipe.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Instead of using canned, try making homemade cranberry compote. This way, you can control the amount of added sugar and also add in some extra “oomph.”  Mix in apples, raisins and chopped walnuts or pecans. Replace sugar with agave nectar or honey.
  • Sweet Potato Casserole – Skip the marshmallows! This vitamin A packed veggie is sweet all on its own.  Try baking or roasting whole sweet potatoes instead.  Once tender, split them open and scoop out the cooked potato, and you’ll find they’re practically mashed already.  Mix well with a little grated ginger and lightly sautéed garlic.  Or if you want to cut down on carbs and calories, replace the sweet potatoes with roasted butternut squash.
  • Stuffing – To lighten up traditional stuffing, turn to recipes that use brown rice, wild rice, barley or quinoa instead of bread cubes. If you like to add sausage, use turkey sausage; it typically has 1/3 the fat as pork sausage.
  • Pumpkin Pie – Lose all the calories and fat in the crust by pouring your traditional pumpkin pie filling in small ramekins and baking. Top with a sprinkle of crushed gingersnap cookies or candied pecans for a little crunchiness (and can’t forget a small dollop of whipped cream!)

You can also add more vegetables to your Thanksgiving dinner by serving one of our favorite Grow Fit recipes – Gingered Carrots!

Gingered Carrots


1 lb carrots, peeled & sliced
½ tsp brown sugar
2 tsp dried parsley
1/8 cup butter, melted
1/8 tsp ground ginger

  1. Steam carrots until tender.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients. Pour over carrots and serve immediately.


And here are some creative ways to use up those yummy leftovers:

Cranberry sauce – Use as a hot cereal mix-in.  Swirl into oatmeal or cream of wheat for a sweet-tart breakfast.  It is also tasty swirled into plain or vanilla yogurt!

Gravy – Use leftover gravy to make turkey pot pies. Leave unbaked and freeze the whole pot pie for a little taste of thanksgiving on a busy weeknight.

Stuffing – Use your leftover stuffing in place of cubed bread in your next breakfast frittata recipe!  Add in your favorite chopped veggies to start your day off right!

Turkey – Tired of the traditional turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving? Spruce up your turkey by making it into a cranberry and pecan turkey salad sandwich.  Finely chop or shred the turkey and mix it with celery, dried cranberries, pecans and low-fat Greek yogurt.  If you have leftover cranberry sauce, you could use that in place of the dried cranberries.

Mashed Potatoes – Make your potatoes into a Tex-Mex treat by adding in sautéed onion, peppers and garlic.  Make it spicy by adding in jalapeno and green chilies.  Add a little bit of shredded sharp cheddar cheese before serving.

Sweet Potatoes – Leftover mashed sweet potatoes can be the star of your next meatless Monday! Sauté kale, sweet peppers, and garlic together.  Add in pinto beans and lemon juice to taste and serve over top the sweet potatoes. Top with sunflower seeds to add a little extra crunch!