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Lighten up your Thanksgiving dinner

By Stacey Stein

Thanksgiving is synonymous with a decadent feast featuring roast turkey with gravy and dishes like buttery mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Most of us expect to leave the festivities with our belts loosened, the result of indulging in fat- and calorie-laden dishes.

Is there a way to lighten up a holiday meal known for its rich, sumptuous dishes?

“Thanksgiving gets a bad rap as being this super high calorie, heavy meal, but don’t blame the turkey – that’s not where it’s coming from,” says registered dietitian Shannon Crocker. “It’s coming from the appetizers we eat before dinner, the creamy sides and the heavy desserts we have after.”

The good news is that it’s possible to create a waistline-friendly version of the traditional feast without compromising taste. The key is making changes to the meal’s accompaniments, usually by switching up some ingredients in a dish to lighten up the caloric load.

Here are a few ideas to help you plan your Thanksgiving lite feast.

Lighter appetizers

A dip with veggies or crackers is a popular way to kick off a holiday meal. The issue is that most dips tend to be loaded with fat and calories.

“Creamy dips use lots of mayonnaise, so they’re going to have a lot of fat but not a lot of nutritional benefits,” says Crocker. She recommends replacing mayonnaise, which packs 21 grams of fat and four grams of protein per half-cup, with Nordica Smooth Plain – a half-cup has a mere 2.5 grams of fat but contains a whopping 15 grams of protein.

“You’ll lower the fat and calories, but keep the creaminess,” she says, adding that the dip will also be more satisfying because it’s jam-packed with protein, which helps you feel fuller for longer.

Crocker suggests trying this layered Tex Mex dip, which uses one tub of Nordica Smooth Plain and only has 70 calories and three grams of fat per serving (compared with 137 calories and 12 grams of fat per serving if made with one brick (250 g) of cream cheese.

“This will lower the fat content significantly but keep that super creamy, tangy taste that you get in this kind of dip, while also kicking up the protein,” she says.

Slimmed down side dishes

Traditional Thanksgiving side dishes tend to have a fair amount of fat. And while veggies are the main star of many sides, they tend to be included in casseroles that incorporate heavy cream, oil, butter or cream cheese.

“We add these ingredients to make dishes more rich and indulgent,” says Crocker, pointing to popular Thanksgiving sides like sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping.

The solution? Crocker recommends substituting Nordica Smooth Plain for rich ingredients to lower the amount of fat while upping the protein. She adds that you’ll get a calcium kick too – half a cup of Nordica Smooth Plain has 20% of your calcium needs for the day.

“Another benefit with Nordica Smooth Plain is that it’s a choice for people who like the concept of cottage cheese but don’t like the lumps,” says Crocker, adding that it’s also very versatile.

“Because it’s plain, there’s no added sugar – you can enjoy it in either sweet or savoury dishes,” she says.

These whipped mashed potatoes (a classic Thanksgiving side) can be lighted upby using Nordica Smooth Plain.

If you’re looking for a healthy, nutrient-dense side, look no further than this brussel sprout gratin. Crocker recommends replacing the regular cottage cheese with Nordica Smooth Plain. “This is a great side dish, and it’s also a make-ahead dish,” she says. “The brussel sprouts are a super food and by combining this with Nordica Smooth you’re getting some protein and calcium too, for a great nutritious dish.”

Diet-friendly desserts

Most of us enjoy a sweet finish to our holiday meal and there’s no reason to exclude dessert in a lightened version of Thanksgiving dinner.

This apple pie makes for a nice fall dessert and you can easily cut out some fat and calories by using Nordica Smooth Plain. Crocker also suggests nixing the pie crust and turning this into an apple crisp for an even lighter version of this dessert.

Another great option is this New York style cheesecake that uses Nordica Smooth Plain, which Crocker says trims about half the fat compared to a traditionally prepared cheesecake. In keeping with the theme of celebrating fall’s bounty, try topping the cheesecake with caramelized apples.

The final word

By making a few simple changes to your apps, sides and desserts, your guests can still enjoy a rich and varied Thanksgiving meal, without the guilt or weight gain afterwards.

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