Who Needs Green Bean Casserole? 3 Simple, Delicious Thanksgiving Lateral Shifts

JJ feastMy friend was in the midst of a pressing dilemma: should she indulge in sage-sausage stuffing or dutifully abstain? “I was going to do your three-bite rule,” she said, gesticulating at the wide array of carb-heavy foods at our friend’s pre-Thanksgiving brunch, “but I just can’t control myself, especially with the green bean casserole. How are we supposed to follow The Virgin Diet when Thanksgiving means all these, well, diet-unfriendly foods?”

I get it. I didn’t grow up eating free-range locally raised turkey and organic kale during our holiday feast. Nope, I had traditional Thanksgiving fare: turkey, of course, but also stuffing, green bean casserole, cornbread, and pumpkin cheesecake. Many of these foods evoke fond childhood memories.

That’s where lateral shifts come in. You can remake many of your favorites to fit The Virgin Diet criteria so you stay lean and healthy during the holidays.

If you’re doing Thanksgiving yourself, either put these healthier alternatives alongside the traditional fare or – far better – just stick with the lateral shift. If you’re having dinner elsewhere, offer to bring a dish like I did at my friend’s gathering. My Brussels sprouts sautéed with nitrate-free bacon and onions went quickly, and my friend was grateful I didn’t bring another green bean casserole.

“What does JJ Virgin serve for Thanksgiving?” someone recently asked at a conference. Alongside the organic bird, here are three of my favorite lateral shifts sure to also be a hit at your next gathering:

  1. Instead of traditional gluten-ridden stuffing, try Wild Rice Stuffing.  Cook wild rice in chicken or vegetable stock. Toss the cooked rice with chopped nitrate-free chicken apple sausage (or any kind you like), celery, onion, sage, rosemary, roasted butternut, delicate squash, pomegranate seeds, and toasted walnuts or pecans. (Feel free to improvise here as long as you stick to The Virgin Diet rules.) The roasted squash mimics the texture of bread cubes, the herbs and sausage give the familiar taste of the original, and the nuts provide a lovely crunch to the dish.
  2. Instead of traditional mashed potatoes full of cream and butter, try a Root Vegetable Mash.  Boil turnips, parsnips, celery root, and rutabaga cubes until tender.  Save the starchy cooking liquid to help thin out the mash (no need for heavy cream). If you like a rustic mash with lumps, use a masher. If you prefer a smoother mash, use a hand mixer.  However you like them, mash or whip with a little bit of ghee and enough of the cooking liquid to get desired consistency.  Fold in chopped rosemary and sage with a hit of sea salt and pepper.
  3. Instead of the perennial-favorite green bean casserole with its canned friend onions and an ocean of cream, try Roasted Green Beans with Crispy Shallots (aka green bean casserole grown up!).  Toss trimmed green beans with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until crisp tender.  Meanwhile, heat coconut or palm oil (ghee also works) in a large, preferably cast iron skillet until screaming hot, but not smoking.  Reduce heat slightly and sauté sliced shallots until completely browned. Remove from heat, drain on paper towels, and let them crisp up.  Sautee shiitake or crimini mushrooms in the same skillet until beautifully browned.  Top roasted beans with mushrooms, crispy shallots, and a pop of cracked black pepper and sea salt.

“I wish Thanksgiving had gifts like Christmas does,” my teenage son said the other day. I just smiled and replied, “The best gift we can give each other is great health.” Nobody knows that better than I do.

I wish you all a very fabulous Thanksgiving. Gratitude is a big component of this holiday, and I want to express my gratitude to you, my readers, for being so loyal and honoring your health. You are the reason I do what I do, so thank you.

Tell me: what’s YOUR favorite Thanksgiving lateral shift? Share in the comments section below or on my Facebook fan page. (Major bonus points for sharing a picture of the dish on my fan page or on your page and tagging me.)

© 2013 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food allergies.  She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Her latest book, New York Times Bestseller The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days, is out now. Learn more at

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  1. I love making sweet potatoes basically like mashed potatoes. Bake, peel while hot, then throw them in the Kitchenaid with a little coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt and stevia. It mixes beautifully and it’s a treat :)

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