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I had read a lot of articles and blogs the week before Thanksgiving about healthy alternatives to classic fare. I challenged myself to make three different recipes for my family in order to stay on track and not go completely overboard into indulgence.

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MAPLE PECAN SWEET POTATOES

I love love love sweet potatoes. Your standard sweet potato casserole, according to Food Network, consists of 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 4+ tablespoons of butter. Yikes!

I find sweet potatoes to be delicious enough on their own without all the added sugar, so decided to health-ify this classic by making a recipe from Health.com.

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STEP 1:  Toast pecans. Once chopped they kept the turkey company in the oven for about 10 minutes.

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STEP 2: Bake sweet potatoes. The recipe called for baking them but as I mentioned the oven was otherwise occupied so the microwave had to do.

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STEP 3: Scoop out flesh into a bowl and mash.

PicMonkey Collage- z mashed

STEP 4: Prepare maple topping by heating maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest.

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STEP 5: Drizzle topping over potatoes. I only ended up adding a little bit because as I mentioned, there’s a reason why they’re called “sweet” potatoes. Sprinkle pecans as a finishing touch.

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THE VERDICT: Great! The syrup topping added a nice flavor but my favorite was the toasted pecans. Since we didn’t end up using all the pecans I made we saved them and added them to various other dishes over the next few days. I’ll definitely be making them in the future.

Ok, so the first round was a win. Now onto round two…

HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE

Cranberry sauce is another favorite of mine. I dare say I enjoy it more than gravy with my turkey. That being said, traditional cranberry sauce is full of additional sugar in order to counteract the tartness of the fruit.

A quick trip to OceanSpray.com showed me that in one 1/4 cup serving of jellied cranberry there are 110 calories and 21g of sugar. Yikes once again!

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My solution was to make my own, no-sugar-added cranberry sauce. This was a completely new experience to me as I’ve never in my life bought fresh cranberries let alone know what to do with them. Thankfully I came across a recipe on Simply Real Health.

STEP 1: Combine cranberries and water. Boil, then simmer.

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STEP 2: Chop apples and dates. The sweetness in the recipe comes from natural sources: one gala apple and six medjool dates.

PicMonkey Collage- apples and dates

STEP 3: Combine and cook. Along with the apples and dates went some cinnamon. Ten minutes was all it needed!

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STEP 4: In order to get a smoother texture the recipe suggested putting the sauce through a blender.

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STEP 5: Eat with turkey.

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THE VERDICT: Overwhelming success! Everyone loved it…even my Dad who is hard to impress when it comes to food. My Mom commented, “now that I’ve had this there’s no way I can go back to the canned stuff.” I have to agree. It was fresh and tangy, had the consistency of applesauce, and complimented the turkey perfectly. Big win.

Last, but not least….DESSERT!

PUMPKIN PIE MOUSSE

When it comes to holiday desserts pumpkin pie has always been my go-to. When I stopped to look at the nutritional information it made me reconsider. One whole cup of sugar in the recipe and 341 calories per serving.

In order to get the same flavors without the guilt, I attempted a Pumpkin Pie Mousse courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats.

The ingredients: sugar-free butterscotch & vanilla pudding, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, pumpkin puree and cool whip. That’s it!

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STEP 1: Combine pudding and almond milk. Stir, stir, stir. Add in pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Stir stir stir.

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STEP 2: To make it a light and fluffy mousse add in cool whip. The recipe called for an entire container of it, but I opted for only half.

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STEP 3: Put in fridge to chill until dessert time. I added some of the pecans that I made earlier which went splendidly.

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THE VERDICT: SparkPeople.com has a recipe nutrition calculator and when I plugged in the above ingredients it came out to a mere 72 calories per serving. That’s it! Not to mention it tasted just like actual pumpkin pie! For someone who doesn’t bake being able to get that pie experience without actually having to turn on the oven is a good thing in my world.

This was the first year I’ve ever been solely responsible for preparing a dish and I have to say it was a lot of fun. If something didn’t turn out I knew there would be plenty of other options, but thankfully they all turned out great. Here’s to a healthy and happy holiday!

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