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Save 1,273 calories and 92 grams of fat with this Thanksgiving menu (you'll never taste the difference!)

By Jessie Price, November 2, 2010 - 1:11pm

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Ever since I was a kid I've looked forward to Thanksgiving. As soon as Labor Day passed, my sister, my mom and I would scour magazines and cookbooks to find new recipes. Every year we tried a couple of new dishes, some of which became instant classics in our family. Take our cranberry sauce: we loved the one I brought home from nursery school so much we've made it every Thanksgiving since.

Related: EatingWell's Complete Guide to Thanksgiving: Our Best Recipes, Menus, Cooking Tips and More

To this day, planning my Thanksgiving menu is a balancing act. I want to eat my favorite dishes, but the food editor in me wants to try something new. So my solution is this: rather than breaking entirely new ground (no smoked turkey and sage sushi rolls, thank you very much) I make small tweaks to the traditional Thanksgiving dishes that I like to have at my table.

This year I put together a classic menu for our new book, The Simple Art of EatingWell. It has sausage stuffing, green beans, easy pan gravy, sweet potatoes, creamed onions and of course roast turkey. With a few simple changes to the classic versions, our menu comes in with almost 1,300 fewer calories and 92 grams less fat than a traditional version. Just another small benefit of mixing it up.

Here are our 6 recipes and simple secrets that make this menu's classic Thanksgiving dishes better and healthier than ever.

1. Roasted Garlic & Meyer Lemon-Rubbed Turkey
Calories Saved: 199
Click here to see a full nutritional comparison, including fat and sodium saved.

More Recipes to Try: EatingWell's Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

Healthier Secret: Turkey doesn't need butter or brining to be a success.
The typical antidote to dry, boring turkey is to slather it with butter, which adds saturated fat, or to brine it, which starts several days in advance and is messy. Our simple solution this year is to use a rub made with miso to add a subtle, savory flavor to the turkey. Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans; it can be found near tofu at most supermarkets.

2. Sausage Stuffing
Calories Saved: 187
Click here to see a full nutritional comparison, including fat and sodium saved.

More Recipes to Try: Easy Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes

Healthier Secret: Stuffing is best made from scratch.
Instead of prepackaged stuffing mix, start with good, wholesome ingredients. This sausage stuffing has about half the calories and 87% less saturated fat than traditional sausage stuffing because we use more apples and vegetables and less bread and sausage. Plus we go with whole-wheat bread for added fiber and turkey sausage because it has less fat than regular pork sausage.

3. Meringue-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
Calories Saved: 403
Click here to see a full nutritional comparison, including fat and sodium saved.

More Recipes to Try: Green Bean Casserole and More Easy Thanksgiving Casseroles

Healthier Secret: Sweet potatoes need not taste like dessert.
If you didn't know better, it would be easy to mistake the classic marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole for a dessert instead of a side dish. So we cut the butter and sugar and use evaporated milk for creaminess and crushed pineapple (with just 2 tablespoons of brown sugar) for a mellow touch of sweetness. Plus we skip the marshmallows and top it with meringue. The result: we cut more than 400 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving.

4. Creamed Onions
Calories Saved: 181
Click here to see a full nutritional comparison, including fat and sodium saved.

More Recipes to Try: Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Healthier Secret: Creamed onions don't need cream.
It's easy to lighten up creamed onions by using less butter and opting for low-fat milk instead of cream. But the real magic in this recipe is that we roast the onions before adding them to the sauce. This step caramelizes the onions and intensifies the flavor, which you may find sadly lacking if you go back to a traditional version.

5. Lemon-Dill Green Beans
Calories Saved: 36
Click here to see a full nutritional comparison, including fat and sodium saved.

More Recipes to Try: Easy Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Healthier Secret: Simple is better for vegetable sides.
Sure, you can spend hours on fancy vegetable dishes, but we prefer to stick with quick preparations for green vegetables (there are plenty of other dishes to spend your time on). These steamed green beans are tossed with lemon and dill and take only 15 minutes to prepare. Their clean, fresh flavor is a welcome counterpoint to the rest of the menu.

6. Holiday Pumpkin Pie
Calories Saved: 203
Click here to see a full nutritional comparison, including fat and sodium saved.

More Recipes to Try: Impressively Easy Thanksgiving Desserts

Healthier Secret: A slice of pie can be guilt-free.
To add fiber and nutrients and keep the crust tender, we use a blend of whole-wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour. Plus we reduce saturated fat by replacing some of the butter with heart-healthy canola oil. We use low-fat sweetened condensed milk instead of full-fat for the pumpkin filling. You still get a great-tasting pie, but with 25 grams less fat and 203 fewer calories per serving.

7. Citrus Gravy
Calories Saved: 64
Click here to see a full nutritional comparison, including fat and sodium saved.

More Recipes to Try: Delicious Gravy Recipes

Healthier Secret: Citrus brightens up gravy.
There's no need to add fat to a gravy. Just a squeeze of fragrant Meyer lemon makes this easy pan gravy extraordinary. Meyer lemons taste like a cross between a regular lemon and an orange; they add perky citrus flavor to both the gravy and the roasted-garlic-and-lemon-rubbed turkey. They're in season starting in November; find them at well-stocked supermarkets.
How to Make Pan Gravy
4 Secrets for Smooth Gravy

What’s your favorite dish at Thanksgiving? Have you ever tried a healthier version of it? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Jessie Price, Food Blog, Dinner, Entertaining, Holidays, Recipe Makeover

Jessie Price
Jessie Price is the editor-in-chief of EatingWell magazine. Besides her work on 11 other EatingWell books, she is the author of the James Beard Award-winning The Simple Art of EatingWell and EatingWell One-Pot Meals. She lives in Charlotte, Vermont where she stays busy growing her own vegetables in the summer and tracking down great Vermont food products when she’s not working.

Jessie asks: What’s your favorite dish at Thanksgiving? Have you ever tried a healthier version of it?

Tell us what you think:

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