It’s nearly Thanksgiving! A day for family, love, and gratitude and (if we’re not extra careful) eating till we’re uncomfortably full…and oftentimes feeling guilty about it.
This year, we’re having none of that. We’re going to eat the food we love while feeling nurtured and supported. We’re going to leave the food guilt by the door next to our muddy shoes. We’re going to savor every single bite and serve a menu that combines traditional family favorites and newer, fresher, slightly healthier dishes.
Just like any meal, Thanksgiving dinner should nourish our bodies and hearts. Here are a few of the things I do to make this meal meaningful and delicious—followed by a lot of my favorite recipes.
Fill up emotionally (as well as physically)
It’s not hard to finish Thanksgiving with a full stomach, but I think it’s just as (or more!) important to end it with a full heart.
If you’re hosting the meal, it’s easy to get flustered or stressed and spend most of your day in the kitchen. If you’re a guest, you might spend the holiday avoiding an annoying cousin or fielding nosy questions about your romantic life.
Make a conscious decision to have meaningful conversations with the people you love. Get beyond “How’s work going?” Ask your mom about Thanksgiving when she was a kid; talk to your grandpa about his favorite holiday memories. If you’re the host, step away from the kitchen, sit down, and engage with your family. Let others clean up while you connect with the people who traveled all this way to see you!
Make your grandmother’s recipe the way she intended it
When you take pride in eating healthily, it can be tempting to tinker and tweak Grandma’s recipe for mashed potatoes. “What if I made it half mashed potatoes and half mashed cauliflower? What if I used cashew cream?” I get it. I’ve been there, too.
But Thanksgiving dinner is as much about the cooking and preparation as the eating. When you pull out the recipe card covered in your Grandma’s sweet cursive, you’re connecting with your family and your history in a way that you don’t when you’re scrolling through epicurious.com.
So choose a few recipes that have been passed down through the generations and make them in all their white flour, not-so-healthy fat glory and remember the people who first cooked these things for you. When you eat those dishes, you’re eating love and memories in addition to potatoes and butter!
Mix the old with the new
Luckily, it is possible to relish those family classics and add in a bit of a modern (healthy!) twist. I’ve found my Thanksgiving guests prefer a new, fresh recipe over a ‘healthy’ version of an old favorite. So rather than trying to make a healthier version of green bean casserole, I try something new altogether. I like to aim for a Thanksgiving menu that’s filled with a combination of traditional dishes and half interesting, new dishes. That way everybody’s happy!
If you’re looking for healthy, fresh recipes to tuck between those family classics, I’ve rounded up a delicious & nutritious line up of some of my favorites for you!
Don’t skip breakfast in an attempt to ‘save’ calories for the big meal. You need plenty of energy and fuel to chop and mix and simmer all day – or even just make small talk with the relatives! Balance your blood sugar throughout the day with healthy fats, fiber and protein. Why not start the day in an appropriately festive way with my Healing Pumpkin Spice Smoothie Bowl?
Greet your guests
If you’re not serving dinner until 4 pm, your guest might need a little something to tide them over and keep their spirits (and blood sugar) up. I’m currently obsessed with my Spiced Roasted Carrot Hummus (a sneak peek of one of the 200 recipes from my upcoming book Whole Food Energy!).
Get your green on
A sliced Brussels sprout & kale salad looks bright and seasonal with the addition of juicy pomegranate seeds and is a nice break from all the cooked foods. Or my roasted root vegetable salad over a bed of greens with a maple Dijon dressing adds a delicious splash of color to the table. This sauteed Brussels sprouts, almonds, and dates dish is one of my all-time favorites that I usually only make once a year! And you can never go wrong by keeping it simple with roasted asparagus or roasted Brussels sprouts.
Of course, you don’t have to make all these dishes but having some green at the table alongside the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes is always a good thing!
My amazing friend Pamela Salzman’s roasted delicata squash with pomegranate-pistachio relish looks out of this world! And if you’re searching for a lighter alternative to mashed potatoes (and you’re not trying to recreate Grandma’s recipe), check out my mashed cauliflower with garlic. Even my guys approve!
Last year, I made (and shared) a Saweet Potato Casserole with a Crunchy Nut Crumble from Oh She Glows, and it was a huge hit. So if you missed it, now is your chance to add this dairy-free and refined sugar-free dish to your dinner table.
Get creative with cranberries
If you’re trying to avoid excess sugar, you’ll love my brand new superfood cranberry sauce with orange and chia seeds! It’s got that perfect jammy texture with some nutritional boosts too! (Excited about this one.)
Last but not least desserts!
The chocolate cashew tart from Lily of Pilates Nutritionist is so insanely delicious, you’ll forget that pumpkin pie exists. Really! But if you’d like something more traditional, try this pumpkin pie recipe that’s free of grains, dairy, and refined sugar.
Make it mindful
To really savor the entire Thanksgiving experience, I have a handy list of my best strategies for mindful eating here. It makes all the difference in the world!
If you do end up overindulging at the holiday feast, remember that guilt and negative self-talk do more harm to your body than the extra helping of stuffing or slice of pecan pie.
Tomorrow’s a new day. Move your body. Enjoy face-to-face conversations with your houseguests. Load up on fruits and veggies. If your digestion needs some soothing support, try my signature green juice—double the ginger!
How about your table: what are some of the ways that you honor tradition but also add in a healthy twist to your holiday celebration?
If you’re just joining us, this post is part of the year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month we’re implementing one super small, super doable change—it really adds up over the course of a year! You can read about all the changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges. (Did I mention that […]
A few days ago, I had just come in from a run and was doing my early morning stretch-and-Instagram scroll when I came across this startling image on my friend Sarah’s Instagram page. In it, you see a young woman on a train. She’s staring into the middle distance and on the wall next to […]
Wednesday, October 7th is “officially” National Kale Day. That’s right, National Kale Day is a designated day to celebrate the eating, growing and sharing of this cruciferous super-veggie. As you know, kale is jam-packed with phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. And whether you’re a green smoothie worshipper, plant-based lover, or just like to toss some extra leafies into […]
If you’re just joining us, this post is part of the year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month we’re implementing one super small, super doable change—over a year it really adds up! You can read about all the changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges. (Did I mention that there are lots of theme-related GIVEAWAYS […]
When you’re visiting a friend, have you ever been tempted to peek in their bathroom cabinet? Even though we all know it’s incredibly uncouth, we’re at least a little curious. How does she keep her skin so smooth? Is she using a lipstick I should know about? What’s that interesting scent she’s always wearing? While […]
September always feels like the beginning of a new year, doesn’t it? There’s an energy in the air as the kids head back to school and we adults buckle down at work. Just like that other new year, many of us view September as an opportunity to make big changes. More exercise! Fewer refined carbs! […]
Have you heard the term microbiome? Up until about a year ago, I hadn’t really either. But when Dr. Robynne Chutkan—a close friend and one of the most recognizable gastroenterologists in America—initially told me about her book on the microbiome and asked me to create and contribute 70 (!) recipes, I quickly learned why we […]
For the last few months I’ve been living under piles of cookbooks, mounds of kitchen gadgets, and one metric ton of unopened mail. Yesterday, I found a silicone spatula between the cushions of my couch. As you may know, I’ve spent much of this spring and summer working on the cookbook. I’m thrilled to be […]
I’m writing to you from one of my favorite places on earth. It’s not a beautiful Italian villa, tucked in the Tuscan hills or a luxurious spa on a tropical island. This beloved vacation spot is dusty, remote and, well, it smells like horses. Every summer for the past 11 years, my family spends a […]