IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Cut calories on Thanksgiving without missing out on your favorite foods

Get in shape this fall with Joy Bauer's Trim Before Turkey challenge. Lighter recipes and easy exercises will have you healthier by the holidays.
/ Source: TODAY

Joy Bauer challenged the three contestants competing to get Trim Before the Turkey to makeover their Thanksgiving plates.

Each contestant had to come up with their own healthy recipes to serve for Thanksgiving dinner. They present some takes on classics as well as new ideas for a fun holiday spread. Joy then grades each recipe based on their relative healthfulness.

In addition to showing off their culinary skills, the contestants test their endurance in an exercise challenge to see who can do the most squats in 30 seconds.

Katie's recipes:

My strategy for sticking to a healthy eating plan on Thanksgiving is to fill most of my plate with healthy veggies. This way there's less room for the calorie-dense, carb-heavy foods. Roasted root vegetables and a lighter corn casserole will leave me feeling satisfied instead of stuffed.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Katie: Roasted Root Vegetables, Corn Casserol
Zach Pagano / TODAY

Joy's grade? I would give this an A+! It has so many colorful, nutrient-packed vegetables, plus she uses heart-healthy olive oil. I love that she’s infused flavor into the dish with fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme, instead of loading up on the salt. Plus, garlic is fantastic for managing blood pressure and overall health.


2 medium parsnips, peeled and cubed

2 medium carrots, peeled and cubed

1 quart Brussels sprouts, halved

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 medium turnip, peeled and cubed

1 small red onion, sliced

6 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients to coat and mix evenly.

3. Place the seasoned vegetables in a even layer on the baking sheet.

4. Roast in oven for 45 minutes or until veggies and browned and fork tender.

Corn Casserole

Joy's grade? This one gets a B, because while there is a good amount of fiber from the corn — and some protein form the yogurt (which is great swap for sour cream, by the way!), it’s almost dessert-like with so much starch. Still, this would be a great alternative to some of the super-rich Thanksgiving sides


Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, preferably Fage

1 large egg

One 15-ounce can low-sodium corn kernels, drained (use no salt or low sodium canned corn)

One 15-ounce can creamed corn

One 9-ounce box corn muffin mix

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar


1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9- by 9-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Pour everything into medium bowl, and mix until well combined.

3. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until top is lightly golden brown.

Karine's recipes:

To stay on track during Thanksgiving I'm going to please my palate with a variety of spicy, fresh, sweet and savory flavors. Adding extra spices, aromatics and seasonings to healthy foods like salmon, Brussels sprouts and baked plantains satisfies my flavor cravings without blowing my calorie budget.

Baked Sweet and Spicy Plantains

Joy's grade? This dish gets an A- as a great alternative to classic desserts! Bananas are loaded with potassium and as long as she goes easy with the sugar, it’s a fun way to end a meal. The minus is just due to the added sugar, so consider leaving it out!

Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Cranberries

Joy's grade? Karine gets a B+here. Make sure you measure the olive oil carefully here because the fat and calories add up quickly ...and you want to save calories for dessert and other sides! Use lean turkey bacon (fatty beef bacon is a nightmare health wise!) and watch the amount of dried cranberries, which are calorie-dense and sugar-soaked.

Crab Stuffed Salmon

Joy's grade? If you use whole grain breadcrumbs, this dish would be an A+! Two protein-rich seafood picks, plus a smorgasbord of seasonings equals yum!

Athena's recipes:

I love all the classic Thanksgiving flavors like warm cinnamon, tart cranberries, savory stuffing and, of course, the rich, juicy turkey. In order to enjoy the terrific tastes of Turkey Day, I've modified a few of my favorite recipes to cut out some of the fat and calories so I can enjoy the holiday meal without feeling deprived.

Slow-Cooker Apple and Cranberry Stuffing

Athena: Apple and Cranberry Stuffing, Garlic Mashed Cauliflower, Turkey Breast, Thanksgiving cocktail
Zach Pagano / TODAY

Joy's grade? A ​C+. While the core ingredients, like veggies and fruit, are great, I would go to nutrition jail if I okayed ½ stick of butter and 8 cups of Italian bread. Sorry! If she swapped the butter for 4 tablespoons of olive oil — and the Italian bread for whole grain Panko breadcrumbs — we’d be in business!


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

2 medium apples, cored and chopped

1 cup dried cranberries

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons sage

2 teaspoons parsley flakes

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 cups cubed day-old Italian bread


1. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and let cook for a few minutes until softened. Then stir in apples and cranberries and let cook until the apples have softened.

2. Coat the inside of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Add the apple mixture and the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

3. Cover and cook for 3 hours on low.

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Joy's grade? She gets an A for this. I love that she’s made a lower carb-lower calorie mash with cauliflower instead of spuds. Cauliflower is packed with fiber and immune boosting vitamin C. Parmesan is also the perfect flavor enhancer. However, if she had used just 2 tablespoons of butter, she would have earned an A+.


1-2 heads fresh cauliflower, cut into florets

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender.

3. Drain and transfer the cooked cauliflower to large bowl. Add the butter and Parmesan cheese and season with salt pepper and garlic powder to taste.

4. Use a hand mixer or potato masher to mash until smooth.

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Joy's grade? A-! It's terrific that she's seasoning lean turkey breast with thyme, rosemary and garlic. But why use a whole stick of butter? I would have given this one an A if she cut back on the butter or used olive oil instead. Also, quick tip: Avoid eating the turkey skin.


2 bone-in turkey breast

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 bunch thyme

1 bunch rosemary

1 head garlic, crushed


1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Rub the softened butter on all sides of the turkey breasts and season with salt and pepper.

2. Place the thyme, rosemary and garlic in the bottom of a large rimmed roasting pan and place turkey breast on top.

3. Cook for 45-55 minutes, turning turkey breasts over half way through cooking time (a thermometer should register a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F at the thickest part of the breast).

Thanksgiving Cocktail

Joy's grade? Cheers, this drink gets an A! Champagne is a great low-calorie alcoholic beverage and adding just an ounce or a splash of real cranberry juice transforms it into a festive cocktail that's not too sugary.


1 ounce real cranberry juice (not the cocktail juice!)

Lime wedge


Cranberries, for garnish


Add one ounce of cranberry juice to flute, squeeze in lime. Top off glass with champagne. Garnish with cranberries.