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Thanksgiving recipes to keep your diet on track
Northeast Georgia Health System offers healthy holiday cooking class
Karen Turpin attended the healthy holidays cooking demonstration and said the cranberry sauce tasted “just like grandma’s.” The sauce is made with honey rather than white sugar. - photo by Liset Cruz

Crustless pumpkin pie

1 pound pumpkin puree

3/4 cup skim milk

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

3/4 cup granulated sugar substitute (add 2 teaspoons Truvia for additional sweetness)

2 egg whites

1 egg

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9-inch round pie pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, milk, yogurt, sugar substitute. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie pan and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the center barely jiggles when gently shaken.

Cool to room temperature on a wire rack and chill at least two hours before serving.

Top with sugar free whipped cream or dust with powdered sugar.

It serves 8.

Note: If baked for less than 40 minutes, the top of the pie will not crack, but the slices will fall apart when removed from the pan. If cooked 40-50 minutes, the pie will most likely crack on top but the flavor will stay the same.


Charred squash salad

2 pounds yellow squash

1 onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2  teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh basil

1/2 cup fresh mint

1/2 cup fresh parsley

Preheat grill to high.

Cut squash and onion to desired shape, large enough to fit across grill grates. Coat sides with cooking spray, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Arrange squash and onion on grill. Cover and grill for five minutes.

Rotate vegetables, cover and grill for 3 minutes. Turn vegetables over and grill 2 more minutes. Remove squash from grill, continue grilling onion.

Coarsely chop vegetables, place in a large bowl and add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, oil and juice. Toss to coat.

Tear or roughly chop basil, mint and parsley, add to mixture and toss.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

It serves 6.

Healthy eating and the holidays rarely go hand-in-hand, but there are ways to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without totally blowing your diet.

Northeast Georgia Health System offered a class on healthy holiday cooking last Wednesday at its Gainesville campus as a part of its monthly free Wellness in the Kitchen series. Clinical dietician Brandi Crumley helped coordinate recipes for the demonstration, which included a cranberry sauce with honey instead of sugar; a rustic charred squash salad instead of cheesy casseroles; a crustless pumpkin pie; and a low-sodium roasted turkey.

“It’s not that you can’t have those things that you really want,” Crumley said. “It’s about making substitutions that allow you some room to enjoy things like pecan pie without having to worry about the weight gain.”

Crumley said people consume an average of 3,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day and gain 2 to 4 pounds during the holiday season. She said exercising and eating a snack before the big meal can reduce the chance of overeating.

Chef Kevin Murphree of the Bright Spot dining hall at NGHS demonstrated how to make small changes to your holiday cooking to reduce calories, saturated fat and sodium. He suggested swapping white sugar out for natural sugars such as honey, maple syrup or agave, and using olive oil rather than butter to promote heart health.

Murphree said herbs and spices can add plenty of flavor without increasing sodium and fat levels. He said roasting a turkey with aromatic herbs such as fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme eliminates the need for salt-heavy marinades or creamy sauces.  

Karen Turpin of Braselton has been trying to cook healthier for her family recently. After attending the demonstration, she said she plans to try the recipes out at her Thanksgiving table this year.

“I don’t think my family will be able to tell the difference,” she said. “They won’t think it’s specifically trying to be healthy, because it’s all so tasty.”

But sometimes, despite our best efforts, diet plans are sabotaged by other people’s cooking.

Chrissy Williams, a registered dietician with Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Systems Director of Nutrition Health and Wellness at Unidine, said if you can’t control what’s in the food that’s being served at your holiday meal, you can stay healthy by eating smaller portions and drinking water throughout the meal.

“You can’t always control what comes on your plate, but you can control how much you eat,” Williams said. “People tend to overserve, so knowing proper portion sizes is important.”

Recipes courtesy of Unidine via Northeast Georgia Medical Center.