West Michigan Moves: Simple Swaps for Thanksgiving

Posted at 10:52 AM, Nov 14, 2016

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And we all look forward to Thanksgiving dinner, but did you know on Thanksgiving day, the average person will eat 4,500 calories. Today we have

Bryan Nader, Sous Chef for Mercy Health, has easy simple swaps that can help lead you to a healthier Thanksgiving.

When setting the table, use a smaller entrée plate which will limit the amount of food you can put on a plate at one time. When building your plate don't pile on the food, limit yourself to a smaller amount of food, remember you can go back for more if you're still hungry. Eat slowly, giving your stomach and brain time to connect, it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to connect with your brain to let you know that you're full.

  • Create a healthy menu
    • When recipes call for milk, swap out whole or 2% milk for nonfat milk.
    • If a recipe calls for heavy cream, swap out nonfat evaporate milk
    • Swap sour cream for nonfat plain Greek yogurt
    • Increase the vegetables in your recipes, by doubling the amount of vegetables in a recipe.
  • Turkey
    • If you're cooking a whole turkey, remember that dark meat has more calories than white meat.
    • Remove the skin which contains a lot of unwanted fat and calories
    • Try cooking a turkey breast instead of the whole turkey
  • Include whole grains
    • Swap white bread for whole grain bread in stuffing recipes.
    • Have whole grain dinner rolls instead of white dinner rolls.
  • Construct a plan
    • Don't over produce food on Thanksgiving. It's common to make too much food, which can lead you to over eat. Instead select a few dishes that you want and go with those.

Try these easy recipes:

Whole grain stuffing


  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • ½ cup diced yellow onion
  • 10 slices whole-grain bread, toasted and chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped apple
  • 1 Tbsp. poultry seasoning


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat a 2qt. casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In large saucepan bring chicken stock, onions, and celery to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes and then remove from the heat.

In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients and carefully pour the stock mixture over the bread mixture and stir to combine. Pour mixture out into prepared casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes and then remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve

Simple Swaps:

  • Using whole grain bread for traditional white bread
  • Using low sodium stock for traditional regular stock
  • Adding fruit to the stuffing
  • Removing butter from the recipe by cooking the vegetables in the stock

Mashed Cauliflower


  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 leek, white part only, halved rinsed and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. low fat cream cheese
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper


Break cauliflower into small florets. Place a steamer basket inside of a saucepan and steam cauliflower, garlic and leeks for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Remove cauliflower, leeks and garlic from the pan and place into a food processor. Blend mixture until very smooth. Add in cream cheese and process for 10 more seconds. Serve mixture immediately or keep warm until ready to serve.

Simple swaps:

  • Using cauliflower for potatoes
  • Removing butter
  • Removing cream

Honey Glazed Sweet Potatoes


  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • ½ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 375 degrees, line a 9”x13” baking tray with sides with parchment paper.

In a small bowl combine water, brown sugar, honey and canola oil; whisk until smooth.

Lay the sweet potatoes out on the baking tray in a single layer, and pour the sauce mixture over the sweet potatoes and turn to coat.

Cover the tray with foil and bake sweet potatoes for about 45 minutes or until tender, turning the potatoes a few times during the cooking process. Remove the foil and continue baking the potatoes for an additional 15 minutes or until the glaze has reduce and becomes thick.

Remove potatoes from the oven, and place on a serving platter, garnish with coarse ground black pepper and parsley.

Simple swaps

  • Cutting out butter and using canola oil
  • Reducing sugar from marshmallows and brown sugar by cutting down on the amount and using honey

Maple Roasted Turkey Breast


  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 ½ cups maple syrup
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup light soy sauce
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tsp whole black pepper corns
  • 6 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 (2 pounds) turkey breast thawed
  • Cooking spray


Combine first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve the brown sugar and salt

Cool liquid completely, add turkey breasts to liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours

Remove turkey from brine, rinse well, and pat dry. Place on a roasting pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake turkey breast at 400°F for 40-45 minutes or until thermometer registers an internal temperature of 160°F

Remove turkey from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Remove skin from turkey breast and discard.

Simple swap

  • Using turkey breast, less calories and fat from dark meat
  • Removing fat from traditionally using oil/butter on the turkey

Mashed Potatoes


  • Yukon potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 ½ cups fat free milk
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
  • ½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt.


In a large pot add the potatoes, half of the salt and add enough water to cover potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook potatoes for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender.

In a small saucepan, heat milk, butter, the remaining salt and pepper, bring to a simmer.

Drain potatoes, and run them through a potato ricer, fold in the milk mixture, and then add Greek yogurt and garnish with chives.

Simple swap

  • Reducing fat by using fat free milk instead of heavy cream
  • Using non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream

Pumpkin Pie


  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ¾ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 (12oz) can evaporated non-fat milk
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (15oz) can pumpkin
  • Crust
    • ½ (15oz) package premade pie crust


Position oven rack to lowest position

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Roll out pie crust into an 11” circle and place into a 9” pie pan, flute edges.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, salt, evaporate milk, egg whites and egg, whisk well to combine, then fold in pumpkin.

Pour mixture into prepared pie shell. Place pie on a baking tray and into the oven, on the lowest rack. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 and continue to bake for 50 minutes.

Remove pie from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack

Simple swap

  • Reducing the sugar from traditional pumpkin pie
  • Using nonfat evaporate milk instead of heavy cream or evaporated milk