Updated: Feb 4
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie
Thanksgiving is the most iconic meal of the year Americans partake in, consuming more than 3,000 calories from dinner alone, according to the industry group, Calorie Control Council.
With more than 100 million Americans who now have diabetes or pre-diabetes, this means it's time to rethink those traditional Thanksgiving recipes. Let us celebrate life, love, and good health. Lets us rejoice and enjoy the bountiful food the earth has provided for us, not Big Food.
Many Thanksgiving dishes are often prepared with canned and packaged ingredients that have loads of refined added sugars. Don't stress; cooking a sugar-free Thanksgiving meal is actually easier, simpler, and a whole lot healthier than those classic dishes full of sugar, fat, and salt, and trust me at the end of the day your body, mind, and heart will be a whole lot more grateful.
I'm not suggesting having a bland, tasteless meal; I'm talking about choosing some healthier ingredients and aiming for less sugar. Bring your awareness when planning your dishes to avoid refined added sugars. With a plethora of recipes available at the click of your fingertips, it's easy to achieve a lighter, healthier Thanksgiving meal that tastes delicious. Imagine a meal that leaves you feeling full, satisfied, and happy without having loads of unrefined sugars, artificial sweeteners, or the guilt.
Here are some alternatives to the top culprits you should avoid or alter that will make it easy to cut the sugar, and that won't affect your classic Thanksgiving feast.
If you're planning on preparing a turkey you're probably using a brine recipe. Most brine recipes are loaded with ingredients like brown sugar, apple cider or juice, canned fruit, and yes, even cola. Choose a more natural recipe that has natural fresh ingredients like rosemary, spices, and lemon juice or better yet create a new tradition and choose an all plant-based menu for your holiday table this year. It really is that simple and so healthy.
Most people don't realize that cranberries, unlike raisins, are naturally bitter. To make them sweet, manufacturers cover them in sugar. So beware that cranberry sauce you're craving, whether it's homemade or canned, is loaded in sugar, and there is nothing healthy about it. One serving, ¼ cup of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, has 22 grams of sugar, which is sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Syrup. Skip the Cranberry Sauce or try this healthy fruit alternative recipe using maple syrup by Cooking Light at My Recipes.
Sweet Potato Casserole might as well be on the dessert table as it's loaded with brown sugar, candied pecans, and marshmallows. A traditional recipe of one serving can have 469 calories, 64 carbohydrates, and be loaded with 33 grams of sugar. Sweet Potatoes are hearty, rich, and flavorful all by themselves. Simply slice into cubes, brush on a little olive oil with salt and pepper and bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes. Trust me, your body and guests will thank you. If you desire something more on the traditional side. Make sweet mashed potatoes with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Delish!
Believe it or not, you can still have a dessert table for Thanksgiving. While sugar-free has different definitions for us all, the key point we can agree on is staying clear of added refined sugars. You don't have to go militant to still have healthy options. Choose items and ingredients that are made with naturally occurring sugars like dates and unrefined sugars like honey, maple syrup, date sugar, or coconut sugar instead of refined added sugars. Unrefined sweeteners provide more nutrition than processed sugar. However, this does not give us the liberty to make these sweeteners a daily habit. It's still important to be aware of the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines of not exceeding 25 grams of sugar a day, which I apply to naturally occurring sugars as well.
My motto always is progress, not perfection. Each day we have the opportunity to make a choice that either helps us or hurts us. Why not make a choice your body, mind, and spirit can truly be thankful for. With these simple alterations to your Thanksgiving meal, even on the biggest holiday of the year, you can keep your sugar intake low, avoiding spikes in your blood sugar and not getting sucked back into sugar addictions and feeling guilty from food. Now that's something to be grateful for.
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