Thanksgiving Survival Guide

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  I love Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything leading up to it, but I don’t like stuffing my face for a month straight and hating how I feel when January rolls around.  I’ve learned some tips and tricks on how to enjoy Thanksgiving, not feel like I’m depriving myself, and not completely abandon my commitment to my health.

  1.  Take some responsibility for what you choose to fuel yourself with.  Unless you make and serve 100% of the meal you’ll be eating, you will undoubtedly be faced with several tempting (but unhealthy) dishes.  If you are committed to feeling awesome and not forgetting your health goals during Thanksgiving, then you have to remember that you get to choose what you will eat and what you won’t eat.  No one is forcing you, even if you feel some peer pressure.  It’s okay to pass on some things!
  2. Don’t look at food as “good” vs “bad”.  Do you know that if you eat 3 slices of pie that you’ll lay awake with indigestion? Will you dread getting dressed and feel badly in your clothes if you overindulge?  Will you lose your energy and be dragging during Black Friday sales if you have 4 servings of sweet potato casserole?  Focus on how different foods make you FEEL rather than putting them into good and bad categories–it’s not about how you look, but how you feel.  Focus on eating foods that make you feel awesome!
  3. Eat your veggies first.  Load up at least half of your plate with veggies, preferably veggies that aren’t drowned in cheese or other sauces.  If you can contribute to your meal, bring a healthy option like a veggie tray or roasted brussels sprouts so you know you’ll have at least one healthy option for yourself.
  4. Be active first thing in the day.  Starting your day with a great workout will not only start you off on the right track, but it will make you feel good and helps you be more likely to keep up the healthy choices.  It’s not about “earning” your dinner, but just taking care of your body!
  5. Focus on what you’re eating all week!  If you know you want to indulge in some amazing Thanksgiving traditions, THAT IS OKAY.  You get to choose!  But don’t allow the entire week to get away from you–keep fueling yourself with healthy foods throughout the week to keep your energy up and your body running smoothly.
  6. Be intentional about focusing on your nutrition in the days after Thanksgiving.  I’m hosting a 5-day group the week after Thanksgiving with workouts, a meal plan, and some samples of my super shake to give you a structured plan for post-holiday blahs.  Click here to sign up!

If you want more help or recipe ideas, check out this amazing blog page with tons of Thanksgiving tips!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I love fall!  I love the cooler weather, the warmer clothes, and the fall foods.  I don’t love how tight my pants feel when I eat the traditional fall foods, though, so I’m always on the lookout for healthier fall treats.  These pumpkin muffins are perfect for this–they fit into my food plan so there is no need to feel guilty, they don’t make my pants tighter, and they taste awesome!  Win win!

I’ve been making these muffins for the past couple of years, and they really are awesome any time of year since you can get pumpkin year round (in my area anyway), but there is nothing like making pumpkin treats when the weather cools down and the leaves start changing color.  The recipe calls to top each muffin with pumpkin seeds, which is delicious, but when I don’t have pumpkin seeds I use the same amount of chopped walnuts.  Either way is great!

For those on the same Fix eating plan, each muffin is 1 purple and 1 blue container.  That’s right, these don’t even count as a carb!!!  #winning

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (from the Fixate cookbook)

2 oz cream cheese

1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1.5 cups almond flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 dash sea salt or Himalayan salt

2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds OR chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Prepare nine muffins cups by lining a muffin tin with paper liners and coating with spray.  Set aside.

Combine cream cheese and maple syrup in a small bowl; mix well and set aside.

Combine egg and pumpkin in a medium bowl; mix well and set aside.

Combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Mix well.

Add almond meal mixture to egg mixture and mix until just blended.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup a little less than 1/2 full.

Spoon 1 heaping tsp of cream cheese mixture into the center of each muffin.  Fill muffin cups evenly, about 3/4 full, with remaining batter.

Sprinkle muffins evenly with pumpkin seeds/walnuts.

Bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Transfer muffins to a rack and cool.


Derby City Mom Clean Eating Thanksgiving Part 4: 5 Tips for Turkey Day

Below are my 5 tips for not going crazy with Thanksgiving food! 5 minutes, 5 tips, and lots of stress avoided!

   1. Eat clean the rest of the day and Friday.  Give yourself the big meal to have indulgences, but don’t use it as an excuse to eat junk for days.
2.  Drink lots of water–avoid the soda and the alcohol as much as possible and drink water all day Thursday and Fridayto flush the extra salt out of your system.

3. Be active. Plan a walk, a run, a DVD workout–anything to get your blood pumping and a swear going. Have a cheat day doesn’t mean you have to skip out on your workout.

4. Load your plate with veggies. No matter what else you eat, make sure you have at least 3 servings of veggies throughout your day. Get good nutrition even if it is alongside some not so great foods.

5. Relax and enjoy the holiday! It’s about gratitude and family, not stressing over food all day. Have a great time!
Happy Thanksgiving!


Derby City Mom Clean Eating Thanksgiving Part 3–Pumpkin Cream Pie

One of the best parts of any holiday celebration, Thanksgiving included, is the dessert.  One of the most traditional Thanksgiving desserts is, or course, pumpkin pie.  I have never really been a pumpkin pie fan.  I guess that’s holiday blasphemy, but it’s true.  One reason for this is that I have never really found a pie crust that I really like–it’s always too dry for me.  Just give me the filling!  Another reason is that I used to not really like pumpkin.  I guess that I knew, somewhere deep in my soul, that it’s a vegetable, and my Little-Debbie-loving self just rebelled.

Fortunately, I have since seen the error of my anti-pumpkin ways and really enjoy it!  But I still didn’t like pumpkin pie–until I found this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

OMG. It’s so good.  Graham cracker crust, homemade whipped cream, vanilla pudding cooked with pumpkin and half and half–it’s amazing.  So rich and creamy and delightful.  YUM.  I’m kind of drooling on my keyboard just thinking about it.

I knew that I wanted to make this pie for Thanksgiving, despite the fact that it’s nowhere near clean eating.  I’m all for healthy living, but moderation, people.  I’m not eating fruit for Thanksgiving dessert.

I did decide to tweak the recipe, though.  I wanted to use only real ingredients and make everything myself, including a crust, so that I knew exactly what I was eating.  Call me a hippy, but I’m not too trusting of the food industry to buy a whole lot of pre-made foods.

I’ve decided to make a real pumpkin custard instead of using the vanilla pudding packets.  I will be making this recipe for a low-carb pumpkin custard from Grass Fed Girl, a paleo blog.  I don’t eat Paleo, but I know that Paleo recipes will use real ingredients, so it’s a go-to for me when I’m looking for real food versions of recipes I love.

Lastly, I will be making this graham cracker-free Honey Graham Cracker Crust from Against All Grain.  This lowers the carb level a bit, and uses real ingredients that I have on hand.

Now, don’t be delusional–this is not a healthy pie.  It isn’t “good for you.”  It’s just a better option for me at this point in my health journey because these recipes are made from real foods instead of processed.  I am under no delusion that this will be low calorie or anything, so portion control is still in effect.

I’m very excited to make this version of a beloved dessert!  I can’t wait to report back–and even if it’s not as yummy as I hope, we’ll at least have my father-in-law’s famous banana pudding!

Derby City Mom Clean Eating Thanksgiving Part 2–Healthier Homemade Stuffing

With just a couple more weeks until my home is full of family for our Thanksgiving feast, my menu plans are finalized!  The turkey is ordered, my family is bringing different dishes, and the floor plan for seating 22 people is done!

One dish I knew I wanted to make myself was the stuffing.  When we hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner, I made a from-scratch stuffing that tasted so good!  It was just as good as the boxed stuff, but I liked knowing exactly what was going into the dish–real food that I prepared myself!  That recipe was the starting point for my stuffing plans this year.

In 2011, I made this Sausage and Bread Stuffing from Food and Wine magazine.  I’m making this recipe again this year, but with a few changes.  First, I’m using whole wheat bread instead of white, and I will reduce the amount of bread by 1/3 or 1/2 to lower the carb content and get some whole grains in there.  I’ll also be using coconut oil instead of butter, and I’ll reduce that amount by at least half.  I know it tastes good, but a whole stick of butter?  Who am I, Paula Deen?  Yikes.  Coconut oil isn’t lower in calories, but it has more health benefits than butter.  Finally, I will use chicken sausage instead of pork sausage to lower the fat content (and because I couldn’t find turkey sausage at my grocery!).

In addition to this traditional stuffing, I’m going to make a Paleo stuffing to have a bread free option.  I found a good Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe from the popular Paleo blog PaleOMG, which gets great reviews, making me more comfortable using this recipe before making a test batch first.  What makes it Paleo?  The only difference I see between the two recipes is the Paleo recipe has sweet potato instead of bread, has egg as a binder, has some fruit in cranberries and apple, and adds bacon and pecans.  The flavor profiles will be very similar between the two recipes.  I’ll use chicken sausage for this recipe too, to lower the fat content a bit.

You might be wondering–why do you need a Paleo stuffing option?  The quick answer is, you don’t.  I just want one.  Thanksgiving will be a cheat day, but I’m not planning on gaining 5 lbs of bloat in one meal.  One way to combat that is to reduce the carbs I eat.  I know for sure that I’ll be having dessert (more on that next week!), and I would rather have dessert than bread in my stuffing, you know?  A Paleo recipe ensures whole foods, no bread, and some extra veggies.  There are no weird ingredients that wouldn’t be in a non-Paleo recipe, so I feel comfortable offering it as an option for my family, whether they are concerned about their eating that day or not.

One final word–why not just use boxed stuffing?  It’s faster and it tastes pretty similar to what I’m making, so what’s the deal with that?  There are two main reasons for me–one is that I genuinely enjoy cooking, and I would rather make my own stuffing than mix it from a box.  I just enjoy it!  The second reason is that I’m really focusing on making my dishes whole, real foods.  They may not be “healthy” per se, but I want to know exactly what’s in them and control elements like salt content.  I don’t want to eat preservatives or weird, synthetic ingredients, and I’m not serving it to my family, either!  I don’t really have anything against boxed stuffing (we’ve had it every year!), but I want this year to be different as I focus on my health.

What is one dish you can focus on making healthier this year?

Missed part one of my Thanksgiving series?  Check it out here.

Derby City Mom’s Clean Eating Thanksgiving Part 1–Chipotle Maple Roasted Sweet Potato

I love hosting Thanksgiving.  It can be overwhelming and stressful, but I love planning a meal, finding recipes, cooking good food, and hosting our families in our home.  I’ve hosted Thanksgiving for 4 years now, ever since we moved from an apartment to a house.  This year, we will have 22 people in our home, including 3 toddlers.  I can’t wait!

This year, as healthy eating is really a lifestyle and a priority for me, I have found myself trying to figure out how to make healthier options for our meal.  Now, I’m not planning on making only healthy dishes–first of all, I can’t cook all the food for 22 people by myself, and second of all, not everyone in my family is committed to healthy eating all the time, especially on a holiday.  I’m not about forcing my family to eat what I think should be eaten.

While I’ve asked my family to bring some of the traditional dishes like mac and cheese and banana pudding (my father-in-law’s speciality!), I am planning on several clean eating versions of traditional recipes.  I wanted to share my plans with all of you because I know I’m not the only one struggling to find a balance between indulgence and nourishment!

The first recipe I am tweaking is for Chipotle-Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  I’ve made this a couple of times, and the flavor is awesome.  The pureed texture, however, just doesn’t do it for me.  For whatever reason, pureed or mashed sweet potato is gross to me.  I like the flavor, and I like roasted sweet potato, but I just can’t do pureed.  The original recipe also calls for butter and milk, which can defeat the purpose of trying to eat healthier.  While dairy isn’t necessarily unhealthy, it is unnecessary in this case and brings in extra calories and extra bloat!  No thanks.

The recipe below is my interpretation of the original, but altered for health and for roasting the sweet potato instead of mashing them.  The recipe below is for 2 sweet potatoes, which should easily serve 4-5 people.  I’m planning on 1 chipotle per potato and 1 tablespoon maple syrup per potato.


Roasted Chipotle Maple Sweet Potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced

2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup

Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 400.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until potato is evenly coated with maple syrup and pepper.  Spread potato mixture on a large cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and/or sprayed with coconut oil cooking spray.  Roast potatoes for 20 minutes, or until tender, stirring halfway through to prevent sticking.