Calorie-conscious Thanksgiving eats for ‘beginner’ chefs

BY CARLYE WAXMAN, RD  | As the holidays approach, our mouths are watering at the thought of all that good food. It’s safe to say that during this time of the year, we made decisions with our growling bellies instead of our heads — even though we can feel our skinny jeans expanding at the very thought of turkey, stuffing, marshmallow sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. If you have control over a dish or two that’s being your usual high-calorie offerings with some of my favorite side dishes and desserts. As always, these recipes are intended for those “beginner” chefs who have three tools in their two by two kitchens.


6 large sweet potatoes, peeled

and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

1/3 cup of pure maple syrup

1 tbsp of melted butter

½ orange juiced

½ tsp salt

1 tsp turmeric


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Arrange sweet potatoes in a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.

Combine maple syrup, butter, orange juice, salt, pepper and turmeric in small bowl, pour over sweet potatoes and toss to coat. Cover and bake potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir every 15 minutes (for approximately the next 45 minutes, until they brown).

Calories: 100-110

Calories Saved: 350 (based on traditional mashed maple sweet potatoes)

What you can do with 350 calories: Have a large slice of hot apple pie!


Make this sauce 2 days before the big day so the flavor and sweetness enhances. Add extra to your turkey instead of high sodium/caloric gravy.

1 package of frozen raspberries

1 (10oz) package of


½ cup of sugar

1 cup of water

1 orange squeezed

1 orange rind

3 crystallized ginger cubes


3 clove

1 cinnamon stick


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until cranberries pop and mixture thickens.

Open frozen raspberries and add to bowl you will be refrigerating.

Remove the cloves and the cinnamon stick, transfer to the raspberry bowl; refrigerate until ready to use.

Calories: 120

Calories Saved: 90 (This is based on canned cranberry sauce).

What you can do with 90 calories: Have a truffle at dessert time.


1 ½ lbs of frozen French cut

green beans

1 ½ tbsp butter

2 cups sliced yellow onion

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

8oz packaged button

mushrooms pre-sliced

8oz Portobello mushrooms


1 cup low sodium chicken or

vegetable broth

2 tbsp of whole wheat flour

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup Parmesan cheese

½ cup reduced fat sour cream


Cook beans in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and place in large bowl, then set aside. In a skillet, over medium high heat, add butter to coat. Add onion and thyme for 4 minutes until tender. Add mushrooms for 10 minutes (try not to crowd them). Stir in salt, pepper and flour (when adding flour, you MUST stir constantly). After about one minute, gradually stir in broth. Add this mixture to the green beans, and toss well. Add sour cream and toss. Place in ceramic baking dish, with Parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (for about 15-20 minutes, until the top is browned).

Calories: 78

Calories saved: 100

What you can do with 100 calories: Make that hot apple pie a la mode!


14oz ciabatta bread (cut into one inch cubes)

2 tbsp butter

1 ½ cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrots

(Hint: These items can be found pre-chopped at Whole Foods!)

1 tsp cinnamon

2 whole cloves

½cup chopped walnuts

1 cup peeled diced apples

¼ cup raisins

3 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 large egg

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake bread on a baking sheet for 25 minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter to pan; swirl to coat. Add celery, onions and carrots to pan; cook 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, cinnamon and clove. Add celery mixture, walnuts, apples and raisins to bread in a large bowl; toss well. Combine broth and egg, stirring with a whisk. Add broth mixture to bread mixture, tossing gently to combine. Spoon bread mixture into a 13×9 inch glass dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

Calories: 168

Calories saved: 100

What you can do with 100 calories: Have seconds.

Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes with a Coconut Cream (makes 24 cupcakes)

2 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour

1 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie


1 tbsp pumpkin spice (or 1 tsp each of

cinnamon and nutmeg)

1 tsp ginger

¾ cup skim milk

½ tsp baking soda

1 tbsp baking powder

½ cup of applesauce

1 cup of sugar

3 egg whites


2 (8 oz) package of low fat cream cheese

2 (8 oz) tub of cool whip free topping

1 cup of Splenda

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup of shaved coconut


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 24 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners. Sift together the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside. Mix applesauce and sugar in a large bowl. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the mixture before adding the next. Stir in the milk and pumpkin puree after the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated (if you overmix, the cupcakes will fall flat). Pour the batter into the muffin cups. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. Frost when cooled.

Directions for Frosting:

Add all contents into a medium mixing bowl and beat until desired consistency. This needs to be refrigerated to keep with its consistency.

Calories: 160

Calories Saved: 122 (based on traditional pumpkin pie)

What you can do with these calories: Save them! You may want a short stack of pancakes for breakfast.