21 Healthy Recipes for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is less than 3 weeks away (how did that happen?!), and with it comes the start of that slippery slope known as the holiday season — the five-week span between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day where bad-for-us-but-oh-so-delicious foods are everywhere!

I absolutely love this time of year, and Christmas is my favorite — it’s such a magical time, even now as an adult.  But let’s be honest . . . it can be a tough time when you’re trying to lose weight and stick to a healthy eating plan (and especially if you have a wedding to get ready for!).

Traditional foods are an important part of the holidays, especially for Thanksgiving where the meal is the main focus.  And I think it’s important to enjoy those special holiday foods that you only get to have this time of year — no one should be deprived of that joy!

So here’s an idea — what if you keep those special foods you love as part of the Thanksgiving meal and enjoy them (in moderation of course — don’t go crazy), but add in some healthy dishes to the spread, or substitute some of the old favorites with a healthier version?  That seems like a reasonable compromise, right?

If you’re down with that plan, here’s a round-up of recipes to try at this year’s Thanksgiving feast.  Some are healthier versions of traditional favorites, and some just sounded like a delicious healthy option to add to the menu.

Healthy Thanksgiving Dishes that won’t pile on the pounds: 

I don’t know about you, but the dressing (or stuffing as y’all call it up North) is probably my favorite part of the whole meal. If you’re feeling adventurous, here are some healthier dressing recipes to try:  

Kale and Butternut Squash Stuffing from Greatist. (I personally don’t believe that sausage belongs in dressing and would leave it out, but that’s just me.)

Cornbread, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, and Pomegranate Stuffing from Vegetarian Ventures.  This one is vegan and I’m really intrigued by it.  Note–the recipe is at the very bottom, so just keep scrolling and you’ll finally get to it.

If you’re going gluten-free, you could sub this Kale and Wild Rice Casserole from Half-Baked Harvest.

Healthy(er) Side Dishes

I love Brussels sprouts, and these Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Barley from Cookie + Kate sounds delicious!

And one more Brussels sprouts recipe for good measure:  Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Squash with Dried Cranberries and Dijon Vinaigrette by A Beautiful Plate.

Creamed corn is a Southern delicacy, and I can’t wait to try this Vegan Creamed Corn.

Love mashed potatoes?  Then you’re gonna be in love with this healthy swap — mashed cauliflower!  The creamy, fluffy goodness of mashed potatoes + the super nutrients in cauliflower = a win-win in my book.  Try this  Creamy Mashed Cauliflower or this Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes recipe, or for a vegan option, try Whole Living Lauren’s Vegan Cauliflower Mash.

More of a mac and cheese kind of girl?  Loaded Cauliflower Casserole from Homemade for Elle is a nice cheesy substitute.

Get your greens in with this super easy + healthy Raw Kale & Avocado Salad.  It’s a favorite at our house year-round.

Raw Kale & Avocado Salad

1 large bunch of kale (preferably Lacinato aka “dinosaur” kale), stems removed and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 ripe avocado, mashed

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Place kale in a large bowl.  Combine olive oil, salt, and lemon juice and add kale.  Using your hands, “massage” the kale by squeezing handfuls of kale for a few minutes or until tender.  Add the mashed avocado and use your hands to combine.  Sprinkle with black pepper. (This will make about 4 small servings, so adjust as needed depending on how many people you’re feeding).

This Autumn Roasted Veggie Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing by Whole Living Lauren is a powerhouse of nutrients and a bowl full of vibrant fall colors that will look beautiful on your Thanksgiving table.

Is green bean casserole a staple at your Thanksgiving dinner?  I love that stuff!  But Campbell’s soup doesn’t make for a healthy meal; it’s loaded with chemicals, a ton of salt, and it comes in a can probably lined with BPA.  And who knows what all’s in those fried onions (though they are admittedly delicious).  So instead, I’m gonna give this one a try — Roasted Green Beans, Mushrooms, and Onions with Parmesan Bread Crumbs from Delish.com.

In my family, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Mom’s sweet potato casserole.  But that (divine) brown sugar pecan topping is not gonna be your friend when it comes time to fit into your dress.  Even more so if you like the casserole with the marshmallows on top. For a healthier version, try Well Plated’s Vanilla Bean Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Pecan Oat Topping (which can be made gluten-free with gluten-free oats).  You could also sub this Baked Acorn Squash with Walnut and Cranberries by A Rented Kitchen.

Get a complete protein from the quinoa and some cheesy goodness with this Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Casserole from Making Thyme for Health.  (I am not a proponent of non-fat anything, so I recommend using whole fat yogurt in place of the nonfat)

No Thanksgiving is complete without gravy.  For a healthier (and vegetarian) version, try this Wild Mushroom Gravy from Oh My Veggies.  I seriously can’t wait to try this gravy.

Healthy(er) Desserts

I know most people aren’t gonna give up their favorite Thanksgiving desserts (I don’t blame you!), but here are a few healthier options . . . just in case.

These Baked Apples are great because you’re getting fruit and nuts in your dessert, not too much sugar, and they come in a single serving (one apple) so there’s built-in portion control!  And if you’re avoiding gluten, just use gluten-free oats.

Go raw and vegan for dessert with these Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites from PopSugar.  And don’t be put off by the raw + vegan part — these things look amazing!

These Pumpkin Cinnamon Raisin Balls from Eat the Gains are light and super easy to make.

I’m totally intrigued by Whole Food Simply’s  No-Bake Carrot Cake but haven’t had a chance to try it yet.  If you make it, you HAVE to tell me how it is!


And there you have it — a cornucopia (couldn’t resist using that in a Thanksgiving post!) of whole-food clean-eating recipes to give your Thanksgiving feast a healthy makeover.

Whatever you decide to have for your Thanksgiving meal, enjoy it.  I mean really enjoy it, and don’t try to deprive yourself of the special holiday foods you love.  

Next week, I’ll show you some ways you can enjoy your Thanksgiving favorites WITHOUT gaining weight.  It CAN be done!


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