Tune in to Biggest Loser tonight for a special Thanksgiving on the ranch. We’ll see the contestants gather ’round the kitchen for all of the traditional favorites like turkey, dressing, gravy, and of course a pumpkin dessert. But a few things will be missing – loads of fat, calories, and processed ingredients.
Don’t feel too bad for the contestants missing their families, though. By our calculations, this Thanksgiving episode would have filmed in mid August; meaning most or all of them are home with their families for the real holiday this week.
Cheryl Forberg, RD, the show’s dietitian and a James Beard award-winning chef, showed the contestants how to craft a Thanksgiving meal so out of this world they no doubt forgot how good it was for them, and you, too! Using fresh, wholesome ingredients, and what she calls flavor agents, all explained in her cookbook Flavor First, Cheryl was able to give the contestants a holiday meal to remember (and one their waistlines will soon forget!). Her best have-a-healthy-Thanksgiving tips are shared exclusively here.
Let’s start with the turkey. Low in fat and high in protein, it’s an inexpensive source of B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Cheryl served a non-traditional take on the bird, with her Turkey Roulade.
Baste your bird with flavorful fat-free broth (instead of butter). You’ll have lots of delicious juices to serve without breaking your calorie bank.
Choose a turkey breast roast this year instead of the whole bird if you’re trying to shave off calories. The fat (and cholesterol) and calorie count is lower because white meat has less intramuscular fat and fewer calories than dark.
Be sure to have a gravy separator on hand. This indispensable tool quickly skims excess from your pan drippings. Cheryl’s Porcini Mushroom Gravy doesn’t even need drippings, making it leaner from the start.
Instead of chips, serve your holiday dips with a colorful tray of vegetable dippers including crunchy sticks of fennel, jicama, celery and baby carrots. It’s a great way to kick up your daily vegetable intake.
Skip the tired white bread stuffing this year and whip up a batch of whole grain gluten free cornbread for a memorable holiday dressing. Baking the dressing outside of the bird means that less juice (and fat) is absorbed. The right combination of ingredients can result in a dressing that just as delicious and moist outside the bird.
And who says you can’t have pie? Skipping the crust saves calories, fat and lots of time! Bake the filling solo in pre-portioned souffle cups or better yet, try this recipe from Flavor First for Pumpkin Flan!
Canola oil cooking spray
3 eggs, omega-3-enriched if available
1 1/4 cup pumpkin purée
7 Tbsp. (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) maple syrup
5 1/2 tsp. canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk, heated until very hot
Boiling water, about 1 quart
Ground nutmeg (garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Adjust oven rack to center position. Coat eight 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins with canola oil cooking spray and set them in 13 X 9-inch baking pan.
2. In large bowl, beat eggs slightly; add pumpkin purée, maple syrup, canola oil, vanilla, spices and salt. Beat with mixer until blended thoroughly. Mix in hot milk until blended. There will be about 4 cups of liquid. Pour 1/2 cup flan mixture into each prepared ramekin.
3. Carefully pour boiling water into baking pan around ramekins. Water should come up to level of custard inside ramekins.
4. Bake 40-45 minutes or until set around the edges but still a little loose in center. When center of flan is just set, it will jiggle a little when shaken. Remove from oven and immediately remove ramekins from water bath; cool on wire rack until room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
5. Serve cold and garnish with ground nutmeg. This dessert can be made up to 3 days in advance. Keep refrigerated until serving.
Tonight’s one-hour Biggest Loser episode won’t let us see the contestants enjoy this meal for themselves, but we’re giving pretty big thanks to Cheryl for sharing her original recipes with us here, just in time for our marathon cooking sessions on Thursday!