Since working with Companion Health this past year, our member of the month, Ellen (along with her husband Josh, our May 2020 MOM) have both given up dairy and cut out almost all the sugar in their diets. In addition to losing weight (30 and 50 lbs respectively), they are feeling better than ever. Ellen is no longer experiencing frequent bloating or stomach discomfort after meals, and she has more energy all around. So, when it came time for Ellen to plan her family’s Thanksgiving dinner, she was determined to reimagine this family meal with the same dishes everyone counted on, but without the dairy and sugar that she had given up with such great results.
Ellen started planning the meal by researching online for healthier versions of her family’s favorite Thanksgiving side dishes to go with the roast turkey. She knew that her three kids, ages 17 to 22, would be the ultimate critics!
She hunted down a recipe online for sweet potato casserole that called for just two tablespoons of maple syrup instead of all the typical sugar and butter that often makes an appearance, and which had been present in recipes she had used in the past. Determined to avoid the dairy, she even replaced the three tablespoons of butter called for in this recipe with coconut oil. And the verdict? Everyone loved the casserole. No mention whatsoever was made of the substitutions! The reality is, the natural sweetness of the roasted sweet potatoes and seasonings are more noticeable without all that added sugar hitting your palette.
Ellen substituted their traditional green bean casserole with an Autumn Kale Harvest Salad, and could hardly believe it when her son (who never eats kale) went back for seconds. The salad is naturally sweetened with an apple cider vinaigrette, apples, pomegranate and lightly toasted almonds. It can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge, and it has all the bright fall colors–and nutrients!—for your holiday table.
Ellen was thrilled to find a cranberry sauce recipe created by one of Companion Health’s very own health coaches. Whether you make or buy your cranberry sauce, you probably know it is one holiday side dish packed with sugar….The store-bought version has high fructose corn syrup as its second ingredient (22 grams – which is over 5 teaspoons – of sugar in ¼ cup), and even homemade recipes’ sugar content are often over the top, and frankly, not necessary. This recipe is made with fresh real ingredients that you can feel good about serving on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or anytime at all!
For dessert, Ellen served Ambitious Kitchen’s Pumpkin Pie, and even cut back on the sugar in this recipe with no regrets. She served it with a store-bought almond milk whipped cream. If you are so inclined, you can easily make your own cashew cream or coconut whipped cream .
And the icing on the cake (not literally, of course)? They felt better after the meal–satisfied without the usual heavy, bloated Thanksgiving aftermath! Instead of a holiday they had to recover from, Ellen had created a menu that checked all the boxes: It honored family traditions, with dishes that could be prepared ahead for this busy school teacher, that were healthy and full of flavor, and looked beautiful on the plate. Her husband, kids and her parents all agreed: it was the best Thanksgiving meal they ever had. Talk about success!
So what is next for Ellen? “To remember what got me here, and to stay committed going forward to all the good habits that I have formed already. I am excited to continue to explore ways I can share what I have learned at Companion Health with my whole family.”