Guest blogger JJ Virgin: Ah, Thanksgiving. I can envision it now: sitting around a blazing fire with family and friends; watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and countless hours of football; the delicious food. It all seems so comforting, bright and warm. Who cares that you won't be able to button your jeans the next day? Your less-than-toned body will be hidden under sweaters for at least the next four months, so it's OK to allow yourself to get a tad "fluffy" -- right?
Though you may throw all inhibitions out the window on Turkey Day, I'm going to bet you'll regret your decision to shove down mass quantities of buttery, sugary treats when your arms look about as firm as a turkey's neck in that strapless party dress. The excellent news is that you can indulge in yummy Thanksgiving
fare by adopting a few good-for-you sides and the adaptations of traditional favorites mentioned below. I promise you won't be waddling while you take advantage of the Black Friday deals!
Smothered in gravy, this potentially healthful protein source (it's full of folic acid, vitamin B, zinc and potassium) could enter into the junk zone quickly. Stick with the white meat, avoid the skin and please don't deep-fry it.
Sugary and covered with a crunchy, toasty topping of marshmallows, the casserole version is a holiday favorite -- but definitely not your friend. Sweet potatoes are sweet enough on their own and are packed with fiber, vitamin A and potassium. Try roasting them with apples and herbs, or simply bake them and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top.
Cranberries are a great choice, because they're full of antioxidants and fiber and can help lower cholesterol. The problem lies in the tendency to cook them with multiple cups of sugar. Ditch the sugar and add them to stuffing or use them as a salad topper.
Butter. Bread. Salt. Stuffing is normally comprised of those three ingredients, but if prepared correctly, it can actually be fairly healthy. Consider using whole-grain bread and low-sodium chicken broth instead of butter, then adding in carrots, celery, onions, garlic, nuts and fresh herbs.
Try mashed cauliflower instead: Steam a head of cauliflower until it's soft. In a large bowl, combine with Â½ cup of low-fat milk and 1 tablespoon butter. Mash with a potato masher or KitchenAid. Season to taste. Yum!
Green Bean Casserole
Ditch the canned beans and cream of mushroom soup. Try a fresh alternative instead! Boil about a pound of snapped beans and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the beans and rinse in cold water for a few minutes. In a large skillet, add a little olive oil and three sliced garlic cloves. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add in one small package of sliced baby portobello mushrooms. Add the beans to the skillet. Cook for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and finish the dish off with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin is a keynote speaker, spokesperson, author of "Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy" and costar of TLC's "Freaky Eaters" reality series. Visit her at www.jjvirgin.com to grab her free audio: "Top 10 Tips to Get Slim and Sexy Fast."