#Meatless Monday: Healthy Alternatives For A Soulful Thanksgiving

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 11/25/2013 | 11:45 AM EST

Consider these tasty options for your Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving is around the corner, which means it’s time for that good ol' soul food family feast. Turkey, macaroni and cheese, candied and the works, are all soul food staples in any Black family dinner table. It’s no secret that in the Black community, soul food is something that is dear to the heart.


But with the national pushback against its health dangers – high cholesterol, high blood sugar, etc. - making more healthy alternatives to your Thanksgiving dinner may not only save you a trip to your family doctor, but it could also save your life. So before you go whipping out your usual cooking ingredients, take a look at these #MeatlessMonday options that work perfectly for Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Mac & Cheese

Instead of using regular flour, try whole-wheat or unbleached flour in your ingredients for macaroni and cheese. White flour is high in carbohydrates, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Also, instead of using whole milk, use skim milk.

Recipe:

1 pound elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons whole-wheat or unbleached flour
1.5 pints skim milk
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook elbow macaroni in boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Drain. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour to make a roux. Slowly add milk to roux, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and sauce is thick, about 3 minutes. Place macaroni in large baking dish and pour sauce over macaroni. Stir well. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and stir until butter is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Spread over macaroni to cover. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake in preheated oven until cheese sauce is hot and breadcrumbs are browned, about 30 minutes.

***

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Rather than making candied yams this year, try baking sweet potatoes, instead. It’s naturally sweet and it’ll save you a lot of time in the gym. Candied yams are drenched in sugar and butter, which packs on tons of calories you’ll have to burn off the next day. Sweet potatoes are a great source for Vitamins A and C, potassium and even iron. While the taste will not be as sweet as what you’re used to, your body will be better off in the long run.

Recipe:

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large sweet potatoes
2 pinches dried oregano
2 pinches salt
2 pinches ground black pepper

Directions: Coat the bottom of a glass or non-stick baking dish with olive oil, just enough to coat. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into medium size pieces. Place the cut sweet potatoes in the baking dish and turn them so that they are coated with the olive oil. Sprinkle moderately with oregano, and salt and pepper (to taste).

***

Collard Greens

Instead using meat for flavoring your collard greens, try substituting your pork or turkey flavor with red peppers, vegetable stock and tomatoes. A vegetarian-style collard greens can be just as tasty. By doing so, you're also limiting the amount of fat and calories that normally come with adding fatty meats.

Recipe:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pound collard greens, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions: In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and butter. Saute onions until slightly softened, about 2 minutes, then add red pepper flakes and garlic, cook another minute. Add collard greens and cook another minute. Add vegetable stock, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until greens are tender, about 40 minutes. Add tomatoes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

***

Tip: Don’t starve yourself!

While this isn’t an alternative recipe, it’s important that you do not starve yourself to save calorie intake. Depriving yourself often causes you to binge and eat more food than you normally would. This is a practice commonly done around the holidays, and quite honestly, a terrible habit to have. Not only are you overdoing your calorie intake, but you’re also eating yourself into oblivion. No one wants to nurse a stomach ache on Thanksgiving.

Feast on, but eat with care.

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