For most guys, Thanksgiving would be the best part of the year—if it didn’t also bring the threat of pies, pumpkin cheesecake, and myriad other gut busters that threatened to destroy all your hard-earned gains since last holiday season.
“One naughty day of eating won’t derail your health,” says Miranda Hammer, R.D., a registered dietitian based in New York City. “The problem is, the big meal commonly begins a cycle of terrible behavior that can lead to a week, a month, a season of poor eating.”
A better option: Fix all your favorites so you can indulge without feeling like you’ve let yourself go completely. Best of all, these food hacks don’t force you to sacrifice any flavor. With a little culinary ingenuity, you can indulge in your holiday favorites—and you’ll still be able to see your six-pack afterwards.
1. Ride the gravy train
Gravy is a Thanksgiving essential, but the usual stuff is loaded with a ton of fat. For a less fattening sauce that’s still just as tasty, ditch the pan drippings. Here’s how to pull it off.
2. Can the crust
Seriously: Try baking a pie without the crust. You’ll save time, money, and a whole pumpkin patch worth of calories. And if your Aunt Midge protests, just say you just couldn’t make crust like hers, so you’d rather not try.
3. Portion the plate
Just because turkey is the centerpiece doesn’t mean you can’t load up on all the healthy side dishes. Half veggies, a quarter protein, a quarter starch, all good the next day.
4. Break bread
We all know stuffing isn’t particularly healthy—but what’s Thanksgiving without stuffing, right? Take the healthier route: Go easy on butter and use whole grains.
5. Make “muscle sprouts”
Brussels sprouts are great for you—so don’t destroy them with bacon and cream. A little roasting with some olive oil and garlic will unleash their more flavorful side. Here’s a perfect recipe.
6. Break out the grill
When cooking lamb, avoid the biggest source of unnecessary calories: oil-thick marinades. Just splash on some lemon and grill it! It’s tasty enough already!
7. Why puff up?
Bottom line: Sweet potatoes don’t need marshmallows. This superfood—potatoes, not marshmallows—is a rich sources of complex carbs and nutrients, and it’s already perfectly decadent and tasty on its own. Bake ’em or mash ’em, sweet potatoes are just fine without all the unnecessary sugar.
8. Green light
Do a green bean casserole—but swap the standard artery-clogging soup and opt for a healthier option: a sauce from scratch. Caramelize the onions, and you’re on your way to a recipe that’s better than Grandma’s.
9. Cut your mash
Add cauliflower to your potatoes. (Really. You won’t even notice.) The recipe retains the unbeatable richness of mashed potatoes, but with a slightly lighter texture and more minerals. Here’s how to pull it off.
10. Boil your ham
Because baking it retains fats. Opt for a wet-cured “city ham” over a dry-cured “country ham,” and slather it in Sriracha and honey.