Thrive by IU Health

December 20, 2019

You can eat healthy and hearty at Thanksgiving

You can eat healthy and hearty at Thanksgiving

IU Health West clinical dietitian Sarah Sweany offers a few tips to eating healthy and a few recipes to include in your Thanksgiving feast.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

Maybe it’s not the most popular message when you are facing a holiday built around tradition. But if you are among the 29.1 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes or the 160 million Americans who are obese or overweight, then modifying your plate and your palate might be an option to consider.

It’s true, Diabetes Awareness Month falls the same time as one of America’s favorite holidays. It’s a time to educate others about Type I and Type II diabetes and to promote healthy eating habits after diagnosis.

Being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing diabetes. It can also contribute to heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis and some cancers.

So that’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: You can still enjoy the holidays and many of your favorite dishes by modifying your intake and choices.


“Choices depend on where you are going and what is available. If you are contributing to the Thanksgiving feast, consider taking a vegetable dish,” said Sarah Sweany, a clinical dietitian with IU Health West.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Use a smaller plate for smaller portions.
  • Choose lean proteins such a turkey and non-starch vegetables (carrots, green beans, kale).
  • When creating traditional dishes, substitute healthier ingredients with those higher in calories. For example, use cauliflower in place of potatoes, use low fat sour cream and low fat cheeses in place of whole milk, and use applesauce in place of oils.
  • Drink more water – before, during and after your meal.
  • When selecting desserts, go for small portions or opt for fresh fruit.
  • Apply the “Take 10 before seconds rule” = wait 10 minutes for your body to adjust before helping yourself to second helpings.

Following are four simple healthy recipes from Sweany:

Green Bean Salad


Ingredients: 1 pound fresh green beans, 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes, 1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts, 1/4 cup crumbled feta (if desired).

Directions: Step 1 - Fill a large pot with water. Bring water to a boil; add green beans. Cook green beans in boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer beans to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain and let cool. Step 2 - In a small bowl, combine shallots, garlic, Dijon, vinegar, and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Set vinaigrette aside. Step 3 - In a large bowl, combine green beans with tomatoes and walnuts. Crumble over cheese and serve at room temperature.

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower


Ingredients: 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 clove garlic, smashed, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon reduced-fat cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Directions: Step 1 - Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Step 2 - Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat; cook and stir garlic until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Step 3 - Transfer half the cauliflower to a food processor; cover and blend on high. Add remaining cauliflower florets, one at a time, until vegetables are creamy. Blend in garlic, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, salt, and black pepper.

Roasted Kale


Ingredients: 4 bunches curly kale (about 2 lb.), rinsed, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 1"–1 1/2" pieces (or use packages of baby kale), 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, 1 tsp. salt (if desired)

Direction: Step 1 - Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 325°F. Toss kale, garlic, salt, and 1/2 cup oil in a very large bowl. Divide between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Roast, rotating sheets and tossing halfway through, until leaves are tender and edges are crisped and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Step 2 - Transfer kale to a large bowl. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.

Sautéed Carrots


Ingredients: Six whole carrots (may also use package of pre-sliced carrots), ½ Tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp. onion powder, Pepper to taste

Directions: Step 1 - Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add carrots and cook for about 4 minutes. Step 2 - Heat a pan over medium heat with olive oil. Step 3 - Toss in carrots. Step 4 - Sprinkle with garlic powder, onion power, and pepper to taste. Step 5 - Mix well and allow to sauté for 2 minutes.