The Great Thanksgiving Exchange! Recipe ideas for a healthier holiday.

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I’m not sure what happened to 2017, but Thanksgiving is just a little more than a week away!

For many, the holidays can bring anxiety when it comes to food, since people tend to gain weight between the end of October and the beginning of January. One tip I’ve found useful, is to treat the holidays as individual events, rather than a two month long ‘season.’ In other words, instead of indulging for weeks on end, stick with your normal eating routine on a daily basis, and then enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. Get back on track the next morning with a healthy breakfast.


But if you want to go a step further, you can use my favorite tool, the great exchange; pick the things you traditionally like to eat for the holidays, and find the healthiest alternative! That way you can enjoy delicious food without feeling deprived, but you also won’t have to deal with the holiday hangover, and the leftovers in your fridge won’t tumble you into a downward spiral of sugar and over-eating.


To help give you an idea of how this healthy exchange works, I put together some traditional Thanksgiving recipes, and altered them to fit your health goals. Check them out, and then see how you can make your own favorites healthier!


1- CRANBERRY SAUCE: I’ve always been a fan of this tart and sweet dish, plus cranberries are a good source of antioxidants and Vitamin C. When I stopped eating sugar some years ago, cranberry sauce sadly went out the window for me, since it’s chock full of sugar. But when coconut palm sugar (a low glycemic sugar made from the nectar of the coconut blossom) made it’s way into the health food stores, I decided to try it in a traditional cranberry sauce. While it’s a different kind of sweet, I was so happy to be back on the cranberry sauce train! Here’s a low glycemic version of this traditional sauce:



One pound of cranberries

2 cups coconut palm sugar

½ cup water



Mix all ingredients together in a pot over the stove, bring to a boil, then let simmer (uncovered) for about 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce is the consistency you’d like. Stir frequently while cooking.


Transfer the sauce to a food processor or a foley mill to get a smooth sauce, or leave as-is with whole cranberries intact.


2- MASHED POTATOES: Two options here! If you want to keep your traditional mashed potatoes, then switch to red-skinned potatoes instead of russet or yukon, in order to reduce the glycemic index. The other option is to try my recipe for:





Two to four large yams (depending on how many guests)

Olive oil

Herbamare or Sea salt





Wash the yams and slice into quarters. Lay open in a bake-safe dish. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle on Herbamare or sea salt and a generous amount of remaining spices.


Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until soft all the way through. Turn the quarters over about 20 minutes into cooking.


4- ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS:  Here’s a great side-dish, and a good way to get some green veggies in!



Bag of brussel sprouts

1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp Olive oil

Herbamare or sea salt

Black pepper

Balsamic vinegar (optional)


Wash the brussel sprouts, slice off the ends, and cut in half. Throw into a mixing bowl.


Chop the garlic clove and add to 1 Tbsp of olive oil (adjust amount of oil and garlic to amount of brussel sprouts).


Mix into brussel sprouts. Sprinkle on Herbamare (or sea salt) and black pepper to taste.


Lay on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Flip them over half-way through baking.


Optional: drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar before serving.


5- GRAVY: For this recipe, I turned to my favorite healthy food blog, the Detoxinista: If you want to lower the glycemic index a bit, use a red-skinned potato instead of Yukon gold.


6- STUFFING: For a healthy stuffing exchange, use sprouted Ezekiel bread instead of regular bread, to make your stuffing low glycemic.


7- PUMPKIN PIE: I scoured the internet and came up with a great filling made by the, and a pie crust adapted from First, the filling! Check out the Detoxinista’s recipe for a healthy, vegan, pumpkin pie:

Vegan Pumpkin Pie by


My recommendation is to use coconut nectar instead of maple syrup, in order to make it low glycemic.

You can use your favorite whole wheat pie crust (or gluten-free), or check out this recipe, which I adapted from ‘Healthier Pie Crust’ on


Ingredients for Pie Crust:

¾ cup quick cooking oats

¾ cup whole grain flour (Bob’s Red Mill whole grain white wheat pastry flour might work well)

¼ cup shredded coconut (or leave it out and add a little more oats instead)

¼ cup coconut oil (refined, since you’ll be cooking at higher heat)

2-4 Tbsp ice water


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together oats, flour, and coconut. Stir in oil and water. Press dough into a 9 inch greased pie pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, until lightly browned.


Now that you get the idea, see how you can exchange some ingredients to make your own favorite dishes healthier, and let me know how it goes!


Happy Thanksgiving!