(Note from GGS: Today we have a very special treat for you! Our friend Dani Shugart of Good Girl Fitness teaches us how to make a delicious holiday meal that won’t derail your health and physique efforts. Of course, it *is* a holiday, and some of you may choose to indulge, and that’s fine. It’s all about personal choice, after all. But if you’re interested in how you can have a fit AND fabulous Thanksgiving, check out this article from Dani).
Nutrition experts often divide people into two groups: those who are carb-tolerant and those who aren’t.
How do you know who is and isn’t? Just look at who wants a nap after a carb-heavy meal, and who gets revved up. If you’re energized after eating lots of carbs, you’re said to be carb-tolerant.
Unfortunately most of us are not. Which means a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with rolls, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, stuffing, and other goodies will send us straight to the couch for a post-meal coma. It’s not just the healthy tryptophan in the turkey making us lethargic; it’s the abundance of carbs in our system lulling us to sleep.
Is there a reason why we have to stick to the way our parents and grandparents did Thanksgiving dinner? Grandma’s stuffing is nothing like what the early settlers ate. More than likely, early settlers carved up deer and fish, not turkey. (Though any of these sources of protein would be healthy.) And the first loaves of bread were likely made out of maize, not wheat.
When it comes to chowing down, shouldn’t Thanksgiving be all about the fall harvest, (i.e. fresh, seasonal foods) rather than rolls from a bag or pie crusts made of shortening and sugar? So instead of clinging to traditions that aren’t all that healthy (and don’t make any historical sense), how about we hang onto only the nutritious carbs and minimize the damage?
Granted, your family won’t be thrilled if you delete their favorite dishes from the Thanksgiving menu, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be picky about which ones you add to your plate. It also doesn’t mean you can’t improve their favorites.
Take a look at our “Drop or Keep List” below to see which foods are worth keeping, and which should be kicked to the curb.
Thanksgiving Carbs – The Drop or Keep List
**Remember, the main dish is the turkey or the ham. So always build around those first.
Sweet potatoes – Keep.
Bake with skins on, sans-marshmallow; eat with butter or cinnamon and spices. (Drop if you opt for mashed potatoes. Or do a little of both.)
Cranberry sauce – Keep.
Cook your own on the stovetop. Use stevia. Add other fruit. Pear and orange zest are awesome. Then treat it like a dessert. (Leave it off your plate if it came from a can.)
Rolls – Drop.
Unless you can make them grain-free and healthed-up, otherwise opt for the sweet potato or mashed potato as your main carb.
Stuffing – Drop.
There’s a way to make faux-stuffing with cauliflower, but the final product takes a lot of time and effort… and you may be the only one eating it.
Mashed potatoes – Keep.
But sneak a different root vegetable into the pot. See directions below.
Pumpkin pie – Keep.
Make it without the crust, or make a crushed-nut or almond flour crust version. Use stevia or an alternative sweetener.
Whipped topping – Keep.
Make it with the cream from a can of organic coconut milk and stevia.
Acorn squash – Keep.
Acorn squash is fresh and in-season right now, and below is an amazing recipe to spice up your Thanksgiving Meal even more.
Mashed Acorn Squash
My husband’s exact words: “Who would mash a potato after tasting this?”
Mashed Acorn squash is far more flavorful than it’s potato predecessor. It’s a mildly sweet twist on a common comfort food. Nutritionally speaking, acorn squash has nearly 50% fewer carbs than potato, and it packs in more vitamin A and magnesium.
3 large Acorn squashes
3/4 cup canned coconut milk, or organic heavy whipping cream
Chicken stock, MSG-free
Salt, pepper, and spices to taste
1. Slice the acorn squash in half. Remove the seeds.
2. Place facedown on a baking sheet.
(Line your baking sheet with parchment paper to cut clean-up time in half).
3. Bake the acorn squash on 400 for 25-30 minutes, or until the outside skin gives when you poke it.
4. Test for doneness by piercing the squash flesh with a fork. The prongs should slide through easily. (The browning indicates doneness, too).
5. Let squash cool, then scoop it out of its peel with a spoon and plop it into a pot on your stovetop.
6. Using a potato masher or a fork, mash your squash until there are nearly no lumps.
7. Pour the coconut milk into your pot. For optimal creaminess, a good rule of thumb is 1/4 cup per 1 acorn squash. But you can add more and go creamier if you prefer.
8. Continue mashing out the lumps.
9. Assess the consistency. If you need to make it thinner, do so by adding a teeny bit of chicken stock and then stirring. Once it’s mashed and heated thoroughly you probably won’t need much, if any at all.
10. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add optional spices: sage, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste.
Mashed acorn squash is just as easy as mashed (not-from-a-box) potatoes.
Take it a step further: Sauté a few large handfuls of spinach with coconut oil and salt. Then stir them into the mash.
Recommendation: Test this recipe in your house before Thanksgiving Day and use just one acorn squash and ¼ cup coconut milk. It should come together fast.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to derail your fitness journey. It can be just the bump of carbs and calories you need to help you continue getting fitter and stronger. If you’re not carb-tolerant, demolish the post-meal brain fog by making your favorites healthier, and being picky about which ones you indulge in, then head out for a walk after you’re done chowing down.
Dani Shugart is an ISSA certified nutrition coach with degrees in nutrition and electronic media. She’s competed in everything from natural bodybuilding to long distance running. She blogs and offers customized food and fitness plans at GoodGirlFitness.net. You can also connect with her on Twitter,Facebook, Instagram, and Email.