It’s become as much a Thanksgiving staple as butternut squash and carrots, but your beloved green bean casserole isn’t nearly as healthy as those other sides.
But before you tear up your menu, consider advice from Melissa Keeney, RDN, clinical nutrition manager at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
“At special meals such as Thanksgiving, all foods can have a place, and people should eat what is going to be satisfying for them,” she says.
That could mean sticking with the traditional green bean casserole recipe on the holiday. Or, says Keeney, finding new ways to add nutritional value to the traditional recipe.
5 ways to make green bean casserole healthier.
Think about the ingredients of the original green bean casserole, Keeney says.
“The traditional recipe uses canned soup, canned green beans and fried onions. As a result, the dish is high in sodium and fat,” she explains. “In addition, canned green beans may not have as much flavor or fiber as fresh ingredients.”
Boost the health factor, she suggests, by trying these easy ingredient switches:
- Air fry onions instead of using the crispy fried ones
- Use fat-free or unsalted cream of mushroom soup rather than the original
- Swap 2% milk for 1%, or use unsweetened almond, oat or coconut milk
- Use low-sodium soy sauce instead of regular, add less or eliminate it entirely
- Add fresh green beans instead of canned. Blanch them the night before. For a bonus, add fresh sautéed mushrooms.
Plus, 3 bonus tips for leaving the table satisfied, but not stuffed.
Even if foods like the green bean casserole are made healthier, “stuffing” yourself may feel uncomfortable at the Thanksgiving table. To help that day, Keeney suggests:
- Eating regularly throughout the day. Don’t skip meals before Thanksgiving dinner because you’ll be so hungry you may eat past the point of fullness, or eat so quickly you don’t enjoy the food.
- Take your time. Focus on how the food looks, smells and tastes. Put your fork down between bites. Engage in dinner conversation with your family and friends.
- Take a walk after eating. This activity helps you digest your meal and keep your blood sugar levels more stable
“It is normal to eat more than usual on a holiday,” Keeney says. “You can always take leftovers home to enjoy the next day as well.”