Making a “Fat” Holiday Healthy: Planning a Clean Thanksgiving, Body Weight Workout, and Quick Fiesta Sweet Potatoes


I don’t know how it’s almost December already or why this week has been so damn busy.

Tuesday evening after boot camp, I called my big brother to see what the deal for Thanksgiving was. The only details I knew were that it was happening at his house, and around 15-20 people would be there. After a quick phone conversation, I somehow had ended up with meal planning AND cooking responsibilities. (Um… What?) Turkey day is in less than one week. I instantly spiraled into “OH SHIT, HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS” mode.

The Challenge

Don’t get me wrong: I love everything about food — cooking it, smelling it, eating it, taking pictures of it (duh) — so clearly, I don’t have a problem planning and cooking Thanksgiving dinner. If I do it, that means I get to choose what I make and I know what goes into it. (WIN.) However, I’m always cooking for Ryan, my mom, and myself. My sister-in-law’s family is more traditional, as is my 90-year-old grandpa, and I’m not sure if everyone will be up for Ezekiel bread stuffing and cauliflower mashed potatoes. At the same time, I’m really not up for eating the old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t want to eat my weight in simple carbs and feel like crap afterward. I was doubting that all of the guests would be okay with a “clean” menu, so I emailed my brother to see if he was 100% positive about putting me in charge. His response made me so grateful for the love and support that my family has always given me:

“As far as making healthy dishes: you know how to make healthy food taste good! I think it’s an incredible opportunity to educate everyone & start NEW traditions in this family! The holidays are about food, but it needs to be the “right” kind of food… Bottom line: Callie & I are hosting, it’s our house, and we want to eat healthy food. Every one else should too! I fully support you, I love you, I love the journey you are on, and how you are inspiring others!”
This year, I’m most thankful for my family and simple little things like my brother’s email. Even though I was seriously uncertain about cooking for 15+ people who might not like what I serve for the biggest meal of the year, my big brother gave me the encouragement that I really needed. I threw my moment of self doubt behind me after reading his email and started planning our menu. I don’t have perfected recipes for many of these items yet (I’ll be testing things out this weekend!), but if you find your self in a similar dilemma, use this menu to get your wheels turning. Find ways to make your Thanksgiving lunch/dinner something that your BODY will thank you for. (Note: Anything listed with “old-fashioned” in the title is not something that I’m cooking, so I can’t promise it’s clean and/or healthy. This indicates the non-negotiable “staple” dishes that the extended family is bringing. Gotta give ’em some wiggle room.)

The Menu

Appetizers:

  • Veggie tray
  • Skinny spinach and artichoke dip

Breads:

  • Rosemary sweet potato rolls (I’ll post this recipe next week!)
  • Regular dinner rolls

Main Course:

  • Turkey
  • Ham

Vegetables:

  • Green beans sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil with balsamic vinaigrette, shallots, almond slivers, and cracked pepper
  • Bacon, garlic, and red pepper brussels sprouts
  • “Caramelized” dill carrots (in maple syrup)
  • Old-fashioned corn casserole

Carb-y Sides:

  • Rosemary roasted purple fingerling potatoes
  • Whipped cauliflower
  • Ezekiel bread stuffing
  • Old-fashioned sweet potato casserole

Desserts:

  • Old-fashioned coconut pie
  • Clean pumpkin protein cake (I’ll post this recipe next week too)
  • Sweet potato brownies
  • Fruit dipped in dark chocolate (strawberries, cherries, grapes, bananas)

Am I missing anything? Probably. Is this enough food to feed a small country? Yes.

The main thing thing that I aimed for while planning this out was to keep it BALANCED and SIMPLE. When I think back to holiday dinners of my unhealthy, uncomfortably full, “hell yeah I’m going for seconds/thirds and an extra slice of pie” past, we overloaded on the simple carbs and had zero complex (“good”) carbs in the spread. Every dessert had a TON of added sugar. NOT THIS YEAR, PEOPLE! There is no reason to feed crappy, non-nutritional food to your entire family when there are several other HEALTHIER options that taste better.

I hear a lot of people say that they “would” eat healthier if their spouse/kids/friends/family “weren’t so picky.” Here’s the thing: you can make just about any common dish with healthier, whole ingredients and kick up the nutritional value a considerable amount. Picky tastes of your peers and/or family is not a good excuse. Don’t blame them. Ryan was the pickiest eater when we started dating; now, he eats whatever I put in front of him and is confident that it will taste good. Like my brother said, it’s time to start NEW traditions. Somebody has to take the first step to break old, unhealthy habits. Why not be that trailblazer? If you want your family to be healthy (who doesn’t?!), break the mold this holiday. Try something different. Show everyone that healthy food CAN and SHOULD be just as yummy, if not tastier than the packaged crap.

I know my family isn’t ready for me to completely overhaul their entire Thanksgiving meal. The extended family will bring their traditional food items, and that’s totally okay. We’re taking the first step to having a healthier meal together by introducing some clean dishes into the mix, and that’s what matters most.

A Health-Conscious Holiday: MFP and Working Out

Also, I’m going to calculate all of the macros/calories for the dishes that I make and continue to track through MyFitnessPal. I don’t care if it’s a holiday — I’ll still have my phone, and I can still take a few minutes to log my food. I’m definitely going to eat more than I do on a typical day, but I won’t gorge myself and will try to load up on the vegetables more than anything else. I recommend you do the same. :o) If you have the app installed, USE IT. You’ll probably be playing on your phone anyway.

Lastly, there’s no reason to NOT exercise on Thanksgiving. (I’ll need it for my sanity, I’m sure. Gotta love those endorphins!) Mid-morning, I’m going to do a little interval workout while the food is cooking. I did this every day while I was visiting family in August, and it kicked my ass. This only took me 25 minutes with an extra added ab workout/jog to the list below, and you only need enough space to move around a little bit:

 Do 12 reps of each move. Complete the circuit 6x and take 20 seconds of rest in between each round:

  • Burpees
  • Tricep dips (use a chair, windowsill, or anything low enough for your height)
  • Jump lunges
  • Star crunches
  • Push-ups
  • Jump squats

Quick and simple. I’ll be done before the the pumpkin protein cake is done baking in the oven. :o)

Quick Fiesta Sweet Potatoes

I haven’t forgotten the recipe! I hate writing blog posts without one. Just doesn’t feel right.

This is the easiest, most delicious way to make sweet potatoes for a weeknight meal. We had them for dinner last night (pictured, with bacon wrapped steak. NOM). If you see me list “loaded baked sweet potatoes” in any of my weekly meal plans, here’s what I’m talking about. It’s Ryan’s FAVORITE carb, so we have it probably 2 or 3 times each week.

Nutritional Overview
Calories: 117Fiesta Sweet Potato
Carbs: 21.7
Fat: 2.2
Protein: 4.0

Serves: 2
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
– 1 sweet potato
– 2 tbsp fat free sour cream
– 1 tbsp 2% Kraft Mexican Shredded Cheese
– 1/8 packet Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch seasoning
– Salsa (to taste) – no added sugar

Directions:

  1. Rinse sweet potato and poke holes all over it with a fork
  2. Wrap a damp paper towel around the potato and place it in the microwave
  3. Microwave your potato using the “potato” setting (should take less than 10 minutes, unless your microwave is SUPER weak). If you’re using a large potato, you might want to hit the button twice (setting to cook 2 full potatoes). I usually end up doing that because I like mine to be extra soft
  4. Remove from microwave and slice the potato in half
  5. Sprinkle 1/2 tbsp cheese over each half of the potato
  6. Slather 1 tbsp of sour cream on top of the melting cheese
  7. Sprinkle Fiesta Ranch seasoning on top of sour cream
  8. Top with salsa and serve

OPTIONAL: To make these a little heartier, you can rinse and cook some black beans in a skillet with a little olive oil, chopped onion, cumin, chili powder, and a smidge (yes, smidge) of cayenne pepper. Add the bean/onion mixture on top of the sour cream before layering with salsa. Chopped cilantro or green onions go really well, too! Obviously, this alters the nutritional information a bit (adds calories and carbs).

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2 thoughts on “Making a “Fat” Holiday Healthy: Planning a Clean Thanksgiving, Body Weight Workout, and Quick Fiesta Sweet Potatoes”

  1. oh.my.yum. Just made the sweet potato for dinner; added the bean mixture. SO GOOD. I didn’t know sweet potatoes could be so good without butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

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