If your group is like mine this Thanksgiving, it’s probably going to have a number of friends and family with special diets. As of right now I’m counting two vegetarians, someone who needs to watch their sodium, someone who prefers gluten-free dishes and someone (that would be me!) who hopes to keep their health goals in check. So here’s the challenge: Getting a meal on the table that has something for everyone but still hits the holiday flavor and comfort notes we know and love.
A Satisfying Turkey Alternative
Looking for a vegan or vegetarian showstopper that says, “Holiday!” loud and clear? One of the keys is to find a recipe that has the flavor profile we associate with Thanksgiving. Herbs like sage, parsley and thyme give dishes instant holiday cred, and ingredients like mushrooms and soy products are full of the savory, meaty taste known as umami that we associate with roasts. A classic example is this Vegan Harvest Vegetable Tart ‒ and it’s beautiful to look at, too!
Lighten Your Veggies
A bounty of vegetables is one of the highlights of the season, but many traditional dishes are swimming in fat and packed with sodium. Cut back on fat by roasting root vegetables on parchment-lined baking sheets instead of drizzling them with oil, and remember that you can almost automatically halve the amount of butter and salt called for in recipes for dishes like green beans casserole and baked squash. For a new classic, try “Creamed” Kale – a vegan, low-sodium side dish that really wins raves.
Switch Up Your Mash
You can slim-down many mashed potato recipes by substituting Greek yogurt for cream or sour cream. Or consider replacing the potatoes with a purée of cauliflower or parsnips ‒ your mash will have all the silky appeal of potatoes but should contain substantially fewer calories. Better yet, try this vegan, low-fat, low-sodium Especially Good Sweet Potatoes recipe instead ‒ it’s even got coconut in it!
Go for Whole Grains
Hearty, nutty whole grains are a natural for cool-weather cooking. Look for stuffing recipes that feature grains like quinoa, brown rice or millet instead of bread, and use whole grain flours when you bake. Pass around a basket of these dairy-free Whole Wheat Cornbread Muffins and no one will miss the white flour!
Try a Lower-Sugar Relish
Cranberries are nutritional superstars, but a typical recipe for cranberry sauce can be up to 50% granulated sugar by weight ‒ that’s a lot! You can replace some or all of that refined sugar with naturally sweet fruits like pineapple, citrus or dried dates. This recipe for Raw Cranberry Sauce is a snap to make and contains no refined sweeteners at all.
Choose Fruit-Forward Desserts
Many fruits are at their peak this time of year, so go for simple recipes that make the most of their delicious flavors and you won’t need to add a lot of butter, cream or sugar for spectacular results. This Raw Apple Crisp is one of my all-time favorites: Deliciously crisp apples combined with nuts, raisins and spices. It’s a perfect ending to an unforgettable meal, and it doesn’t even take up any oven space.
Happy eating! What special-diet dishes are you planning to cook this Thanksgiving?