When you think about Thanksgiving dinner, you probably picture buttery biscuits, yams dripping with maple syrup, creamy mashed potatoes, and crisp apple pies, and, oh yeah, turkey… all followed crashing hard on the couch.
But Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to leave you feeling uncomfortably stuffed.
There are plenty of naturally delicious and totally healthy Thanksgiving foods and many ways to make your favorite dishes lighter so you can enjoy leftovers all week long — no sweatpants required.
What Are Healthy Options at Thanksgiving Dinner?
Plenty of foods at Thanksgiving start off healthy, but as Jodi Geigle, board-certified nutritionist says, “If you’re adding cream, butter, flour, marshmallows, and gravy to these foods, the ‘health’ factor kinda goes out the window.”
For instance, turkey, the star of every Thanksgiving dinner has tons of nutritional benefits; it’s rich in protein and is a great source of potassium, iron, and vitamin B6.
But turkey skin is high in fat and calories and becomes even more so if you grease your bird with butter or oil.
For a healthier option, try this flavorful recipe for citrus-herb roasted turkey and eat skinless slices to get the protein without the fat.
Other healthy options? All the fruits and veggies that make up the cornucopia of the Thanksgiving dinner table.
From sweet potatoes and cranberries to green beans and brussels sprouts, there’s actually a wide array of delicious foods to choose from.
Sweet potatoes add a welcome splash of color and are high in vitamin A, vitamin B6, and beta-carotene.
Green beans and brussels sprouts are both packed with dietary fiber, and cranberries have almost 5 grams of fiber per cup!
How to Modify Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes
If you want to swap your grandmother’s famous green bean casserole for a lighter side dish, but don’t want to sacrifice taste, don’t fret.
There are so many innovative, delicious ways to recreate your favorite foods.
“Many traditional recipes have a plethora of ‘cleaned-up’ versions that provide subtle ingredient swaps which aren’t that noticeable in taste, but can have a big impact on the overall health and nutrition factor,” says Geigle.
She recommends looking for simple recipes that use fewer heavy ingredients such as butter, cream, and flour. “You may even want to experiment with swapping out traditional recipes for totally new ones,” she adds.
You can replace mashed potatoes with a cauliflower mash made from olive oil and cauliflower.
Or nix the sugary sweet potato and marshmallow concoction in favor of a flavorful, veggie-hearty side. “Roast sweet potatoes, brussels, and beets for a sweet, caramelized dish that utilizes the natural sweetness found in root veggies,” says Geigle.
Below are a few more easy swaps you can make to keep your Thanksgiving dinner healthy, satisfying, and still as mouthwatering as ever.
13 Healthier Recipe Swaps for Thanksgiving
- Instead of caramelized brussels sprouts with bacon, try Brussels Sprouts With Roasted Grapes.
- Instead of a marshmallow yam casserole, try Rosemary Roasted Yams.
- Instead of creamy green bean casserole, try Roasted Green Beans With Garlic.
- Instead of standard mac and cheese, try this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.
- Instead of apple pie, try Apple Crisp.
- Instead of regular stuffing, try Quinoa Stuffing with apples and cranberries.
- Instead of sweet potatoes with maple syrup, try these Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Figs and Goat Cheese.
- Instead of carrots sautéed with butter, try Caramelized Carrots With Curry Spice.
- Instead of mashed potatoes, try Mashed Potatoes With Kale.
- Instead of creamy gravy, try this Hearty Mushroom Gravy.
- Instead of sugary cranberry sauce, try this Cranberry Sauce with fresh fruit juice and spices.
- Instead of classic pumpkin pie, try this Pumpkin Pie With Whole Wheat Crust.
- Instead of au grain potatoes, try this Cauliflower Pumpkin Casserole.