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Tips for Having a Healthy, Delicious Thanksgiving

By Steve Edwards
Click here for more great resources, tools and information from Team Beachbody to help you reach your health, fitness and lifestyle goals!

Healthy ThanksgivingAh, Thanksgiving. The togetherness. The family. The friendship. The overeating.

As much as we all love the holidays, now is when months of hard work and healthy eating start to dissolve into a pool of gravy and mashed potatoes. In a matter of days you go from health food nut to couch potato, top button of your trousers undone, bloated, sickly, and teetering on the edge of a food coma.

Was it worth it? Probably not.

So make this holiday season different! It's entirely possible to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal and walk away unashamed.

At the table
For starters, don't skip breakfast and lunch, "saving space" for the big meal. It won't work. If you eat healthfully throughout the day, the food will be digested by dinnertime anyway. Also, if you hit the dinner table starving, you'll be much more prone to eat fast—not enjoying the food—and eat too much. The body can only process so much food at a time and what it can't use, it just stores as fat.

Next, when you're ready for that second plateful, hold off for 10 minutes. That first plate is still making its way into your stomach. It may seem like you have more room, but you probably don't. Have a sip of wine and enjoy the conversation for a bit. See what happens.

When you're filling up your plate, dish on the veggies first. You know how it is—the first things always get the hardy-spoonful treatment while the last foods get shoved between the turkey and the yams. Make the majority of your plate healthful.

Finally, no rolls. You just don't need them. Thanksgiving meals are loaded with complex carbs. Losing the bread is an easy way to take off at least one sin.

In the kitchen
If you're lucky enough to be the person laying out this crazy feast, there are a few things you can do to bring down the calorie, fat, and carb count for the pigs, I mean, your family sitting in the next room.

First off, no self-basting turkey. You know, the Butterball variety with fat added. Gobblers are fat enough as is. When doing your own basting, think olive oil instead of butter, and garlic instead of salt. And how about a free-range bird? That way, you cut down on the hormone convention turkeys are packed with.

I probably shouldn't have to say this next thing, but I will anyway. Roast your turkey; don't fry it. Frying is always, always bad. 'Nuff said.

For your gravy, steer clear of fat. One of the best substitutes is to basically make a broth soup and thicken it with flour. (Flour's not great either, but it's better than animal fat!) Take six cups of chicken broth with several veggies, such as carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Simmer for at least an hour and then let it sit overnight so the flavors infuse.

On turkey day, strain out the solids. Heat about ¼ cup of the liquid in a nonstick pan. Slowly add in 5 tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly to make a thick roux. After that, slowly add the rest of the liquid, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. When it's done, add a teaspoon or so of your favorite herbs, such as rosemary or thyme.

As for the mashed potatoes, try a new taste sensation—half normal spuds and half sweet potatoes. Or better still, all sweet potatoes. That way, you get a big dose of fiber to help digest those starches. Again, think olive oil (if you must add fat) and not butter.

For your veggies, steam or grill them. As boring as this sounds at first, I've seen many an asparagus spear or sliced bell pepper grilled to perfection and stunningly served up at a holiday meal. The vibrant greens, reds, and yellows accented by black grill marks please the eye—and the mouth.

Finally, the stuffing. The first step is to bake it in a casserole dish instead of stuffing it in the bird. Not only do you avoid health concerns in the event that the turkey isn't cooked through and through (which happens far more often than you'd think), but you don't subject that delicious blend of veggies and bread to the fattening meat drippings that will soak into it in the carcass of your bird. Use whole-grain bread instead of white. Lean more towards veggies than bread. Mushrooms go a long way in a stuffing.

Here are examples of what I'm talking about.

Veggiecentric Stuffing
Serves 10

8 cups whole-grain bread crumbs
1 cup onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup celery, diced
1 ½ cups bell pepper, diced (your choice of colors)
1 cup zucchini, sliced
1 cup yellow squash, sliced
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup shallots, diced
½ cup raisins
3 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. white wine

Sauté onion, garlic, and celery in white wine until pale golden. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.

Maple-Ginger Roast Turkey and Gravy
Serves 12

With Denis' tips in mind, our own Beachbody employee and cooking whiz Dulce B. whipped up the seemingly impossiblea healthful and tasty version of traditional Thanksgiving turkey and gravy. Dulce's maple syrup, ginger, and fresh herb glaze makes a zesty substitute for the standard butter baste. She skims the fat off the cooled turkey drippings, mixing them with arrowroot instead of flour and olive oil instead of butter to greatly reduce the fat content. So go ahead and enjoy these comfort food favorites with a clear consciencenow that's something to be thankful for!

Ingredients for Basting Syrup:
2 cups apple cider
½ cup Grade B or C maple syrup
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch minced fresh thyme
1 bunch minced fresh sage
1 bunch minced fresh oregano
1 bunch minced fresh basil
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. coarsely ground pepper
2 Tbsp. coarse salt
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 ½ tsp. grated lemon zest
½ whole gingerroot, cut in small chunks for a garlic press
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preparation for Basting Syrup:
(Note: Syrup can be made up to two days in advance.)
Boil apple cider and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to ½ cup (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and mix in the rest of the ingredients (squeeze the ginger chunks through the garlic press and add to the mixture). Whisk till well incorporated. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate. It will yield 1 cup of syrup.

Ingredients for Roast Turkey:
1 (18-pound) whole turkey
2 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 ½ quarts chicken or turkey stock
1 ½ Tbsp. dried thyme
1 ½ Tbsp. ground sage
1 ½ Tbsp. dried oregano
1 ½ Tbsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. minced fresh marjoram
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 small onions, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 whole garlic head, halved crosswise
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into ¼-inch thick rounds
2 celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch thick pieces
2 leeks, cut into ¼-inch thick rounds

Preparation for Roast Turkey:
Preheat oven to 450º F. Place rack in the lowest position in the oven. Remove the turkey neck and giblets, rinse the turkey, and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix all of the dried herbs (thyme, sage, oregano, ground pepper and basil) in a small bowl. Slide your hand under the skin of the turkey breast to loosen. Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey—inside the cavity, and under and on the skin. Then rub ¼ cup of the basting syrup into the turkey cavity.

Now rub ½ cup of the basting syrup and chopped garlic under and on top of the turkey breast skin. Pack prepared marjoram, parsley, onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and halved garlic head into the cavity.

Tie turkey legs with string. Place turkey breast-side up on a cooking rack set in a heavy large roasting pan. Pour 2 cups of stock into the bottom of the roasting pan. Place an aluminum foil tent over the turkey and sides of the pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325º F. Remove aluminum foil after 2 ½ hours, while occasionally basting with accumulated pan juices every 20 minutes until done. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 180º F
(80º C), about 4 hours.

Ingredients for Gravy:
Strained, cooled, and separated turkey roasting pan drippings
Enough chicken or turkey stock added to drippings to yield three cups
½ whole gingerroot, cut in small chunks for a garlic press
¼ cup of reserved basting syrup
2 Tbsp. arrowroot
2 cups chopped button mushrooms
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

Preparation for Gravy:
Strain roasting pan juices into a measuring cup, and let cool till liquid separates. Spoon off the top layer of fat from the roasting pan juices. Add enough chicken or turkey stock to make 3 cups. Transfer liquid to a heavy saucepan, add button mushrooms, and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup of the reserved basting syrup with 2 tablespoons of arrowroot to form a paste. If paste is thin then add a little more arrowroot till paste thinkens, and whisk into the broth. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, and the other half of the squeezed gingerroot. Boil until reduced and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy your low-fat, low-carb, healthy feast. Have a great Thanksgiving!

If you have a recipe you think is both healthy and delicious, send it on over to us at If we publish your recipe, we'll send you a free Beachbody T-shirt!

Healthy Thanksgiving Tip

By Steve Edwards

Thanksgiving Dinner as a Post-Exercise Snack?
You can stack the odds in your favor this Thanksgiving by earning your dinner. This idea has probably been suggested before, but you can take it one step further by timing your workout to turn your Thanksgiving feast into a post-exercise, er, snack.

Since most people eat dinner early, it should not be a problem to schedule your daily exercise session just before dinner. And don't let a family get-together ruin your plan. Instead, invite them all to join in a game of football, basketball, softball, or any team activity. Depending upon where you live, perhaps hiking or skiing are more appropriate. But it doesn't so much matter what you do. The bottom line is that a good old-fashioned active family exercise session is not only great fun, but also a fantastic way to work up an appetite.

Plus, if you time this right, you'll get an added benefit. Finish just in time to shower, gussy up, and get to dinner. Your body will then better utilize those calories. Not only that, but after exercising, when your body is tired, it's less apt to overeat since it naturally wants enough calories to recover, but not too many so it has to spend extra energy digesting.

The mission of Team Beachbody is to motivate you and to educate you about health, fitness and nutrition and the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Click here to learn more.

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