Healthy Thanksgiving Alternatives

Healthy Thanksgiving Alternatives

It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is just around the corner especially when the temperatures have been unusually warm for this time of year! I know the majority of us are enjoying the break from colder weather, but it does make it a bit harder to get into the holiday spirit. With Thanksgiving just a few short weeks away, it’s the perfect time to start planning some of your holiday dishes that you will be making and what better way to start than by learning how to make healthier versions of some of your favorites!

As I’ve touched upon in previous posts, moderation is key to sustaining a healthy, balanced diet. Of course, part of the fun of the holidays is spending time with loved ones and enjoying a variety of different dishes that aren’t typically served year-round. I think it’s important to be mindful of both what you’re eating and the portion sizes, while savoring each bite. This will help you be more in tune with your fullness cues and know when you’re satisfied! 🙂

On that note, there are plenty of ways to make some of the traditional holiday dishes a bit healthier for you with a few simple swaps WITHOUT losing any of the flavors!

  • Green Bean Casserole: another classic Thanksgiving dish that can be made healthier! Campbell’s offers a ‘lighter’ recipe to their classic green bean casserole recipe that won’t sacrifice the flavor of the dish, as it simply just cuts half the amount of milk and fried onions that the classic recipe typically calls for. This idea of cutting down on certain ingredients in recipes (i.e. the amount of sugar, percentage of milk fat, butter, candied toppings etc.) can be applied to MANY recipes, since it won’t usually alter the final product.
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes: Instead of candied yams from a can, make your own with fresh sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, so they don’t typically need tons of extra sugar and syrup to add sweetness. It may call for a little extra effort, since you’ll have to peel and cut your potatoes, but I think you’ll be surprised at how much tastier the dish will be and how easy it is to make! Similar to the green bean casserole recipe above, simply using less butter and syrup when making your sweet potatoes will help reduce the amount of fat and sugar without sacrificing taste. A great, simple recipe can be found here.
  • Mashed Potatoes: I’ve touched upon this in my Easy and Creative Ways to Add Vegetables into Your Diet post, but cauliflower is an excellent alternative to mashed potatoes. It has a very neutral taste, similar to potatoes, and can be easily mashed to resemble mashed potatoes. Simply microwave or boil a head of cauliflower until soft, then puree in a food processor or blender. Add sea salt, pepper, and, a little butter and you’ve got yourself the perfect dish for your celebration without losing any flavor! If you don’t want to forgo the potatoes completely, swapping in half the mashed cauliflower is another easy way to sneak in some veggies while also serving a more fiber-rich dish to your guests.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Of course it can’t be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce! Instead of buying the canned sauce that typically contains high fructose corn syrup, make your own with fresh cranberries! It’s a very simple recipe and making your own will allow you to control the amount of sugar in the dish (i.e. if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 1/2cup instead and see how it tastes!), eliminate the corn syrup, AND provide you with vitamin C, a vitamin that’s nonexistent in the canned version.
  • Pumpkin Pie: When it comes to desserts, pumpkin pie typically tops the list as the best option among the variety of pies. If you read my Healthy Fall Foods post, then you know that pumpkin is a great source of fiber, beta-carotene (which our body converts to vitamin A), and also a good source of iron. When making this pie, a few simple swaps like low-fat evaporated milk rather than full-fat, and making your own homemade pie crust (like this easy whole-wheat pie crust!) rather than using a store-bought pie crust will help you have more control of the ingredient list, thus eliminating added fillers and preservatives that are often times found in pre-made, packaged foods to preserve shelf life.

Other Helpful Tips

  • If you’re in charge of roasting the turkey, consider trying this roasted turkey recipe that doesn’t need butter during the roasting process!
  • Stick to the white meat of the turkey rather than the dark, as the dark meat contains a higher amount of saturated fat.
  • Make your own homemade stuffing rather than store-bought by replacing white bread cubes with whole-grain bread, using less butter and low fat milk in the recipe, and adding in diced celery, carrots, and onions to sneak in some extra filling veggies!
  • Use nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise in casserole or dip recipes that you plan to make! This is an easy way to sneak in protein and lower the fat content of the dish without sacrificing the flavor.
  • Stewed tomatoes can be a very healthy choice when scanning your options. Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can help lower your risk of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, which helps promote a healthy immune system meaning it can help your body ward off illnesses.  These are only SOME of the benefits and healthful nutrients that tomatoes contain! For an easy stewed tomatoes recipe see here.
  • Finally, Check out PTF’s Pinterest Page which will also include other healthy, easy holiday recipes, and of course, enjoy your holiday by spending quality time together with your friends and family! 🙂

Happy Holidays!











Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. (2015). Lycopene. Retrieved from:

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). Beta-carotene. Retrieved from:

Zelman, Kathleen. (2010). The Benefits of Vitamin C. Retrieved from:



*Disclaimer: As a friendly reminder, the information I write about is intended for educational purposes only. I encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your health and dietary needs, as the information I provide should not replace any medical advice. I write based on my own personal research and experiences.