Thanksgiving is full of savory, comforting dishes, but why not start a fresh tradition this year with a healthier menu?
These healthy Thanksgiving side ideas pack in the nutrition without sacrificing the rich flavor you’re craving.
Appetizer: Roasted Kale and White Bean Dip
Main course: Roasted Turkey Breast
Sides: Cranberry Sauce, Twice-baked Yams, Grilled Cornbread Salad, Butternut Squash, and Kale Au Gratin, and Mashed Potatoes with Root Veggies
Dessert: Pumpkin “Mousse” with Toasted Pecan-Ginger Cookies
Healthy Thanksgiving Sides Recipes
Roasted Kale and White Bean Dip
Toss 4 cups of cut, uncooked kale with 1 T olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast it on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, to make sure it doesn’t burn. In a food processor, combine the kale (once cooled) with 1 can of white beans (drained and rinsed), 1 tsp each fresh thyme and rosemary, 1 tsp minced garlic, and 1/3 cup low-fat cream cheese. Process until smooth. Serve with a tray of colorful roasted veggies instead of bread or crackers.
Roasted Turkey Breast
Follow package instructions for cooking based on size. If you don’t want to tackle a whole turkey, buy a bone-in turkey breast. Cook the turkey breast-side down for the best flavor, and all poultry should be cooked to 190 degrees on a meat thermometer.
In a saucepan, over medium high heat, combine one bag of cranberries with ½ cup agave. Stir occasionally for approximately 15–20 minutes, until the cranberries cook down. For a twist, add some orange zest or add a cinnamon stick.
Yams submerged in butter and brown sugar are tempting, but these twice-baked yams are even better. Save time by “baking” three large yams in the microwave for 4–5 minutes per side. Cut the yams in half lengthwise. Scoop all of the innards out of one of the yams and discard the skin. Scoop the majority of the innards out of the other two yams leaving a lining around the skin to keep them sturdy. Using a food processor or masher, combine the yam innards with ¼ cup low-fat cream cheese, 1 T olive oil, 1 tsp cinnamon, and ¼ tsp nutmeg. Scoop the mixture back into the four yam skins and sprinkle with 2 T crushed pecans. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
Grilled Cornbread Salad
Turn traditional stuffing into a healthy Thanksgiving side salad by first baking or buying your favorite kind of cornbread. Cut a 9×9 inch section of cornbread ½-inch thick, brush both sides with olive oil, and slice in half. Heat a grill pan over medium heat, grill the pieces 3–4 minutes per side, cut into cubes, and reserve. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté 1½ cup green beans (ends removed) with 1 tsp olive oil and ¼ cup sliced almonds for 5 minutes. Add 2/3 cup of halved cherry tomatoes and sauté another minute. Toss this mixture with ¼ cup dried cranberries and 2 T light vinaigrette dressing. Serve over a bed of arugula with the grilled cornbread on top.
Butternut Squash and Kale Au Gratin
Roast 4 cups of cut, uncooked kale using the same instructions from the bean dip. In an extra large sauce pan over medium-high heat, sauté ½ finely diced yellow onion with 1T olive oil and ½ tsp salt for 5–6 minutes. Add 1 T olive oil and 3 T flour, whisk together with the onion, and let cook 1 minute. Whisk in 1½ cups low-fat milk, 1 cup vegetable stock, and 3 T grated Parmesan. Reduce heat to medium and let cook, whisking occasionally, for 2–3 minutes. Peel and cut one large butternut squash into ¼-inch thick slices and add to the mixture on the stove. Let cook 15 minutes on medium-low heat. Combine the kale with the butternut squash mixture and transfer to a 2-quart baking dish prepared with non-stick cooking spray. Bake covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover, raise temperature to 425 degrees and bake 10–15 minutes longer, until bubbling and browned on the top. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Mashed Potatoes with Root Veggies
Give your mashed potato recipe a healthy Thanksgiving side boost by replacing half of the potatoes with root vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, celery root, sweet potatoes or carrots. Instead of using butter and cream, use low-fat Greek yogurt and olive oil (½ cup yogurt and 2 T olive oil for about every 4 cups of cooked potatoes and root veggies).
Pumpkin “Mousse” with Toasted Pecan-Ginger Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix 2/3 cup canola oil and 1 cup brown sugar until well combined. Beat in one egg and one egg yolk. Mix in ¼ cup molasses and 1 tsp vanilla. Toast ½ cup pecans in a pan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Pulse in a food processor until the pecans are fine pieces. Note: Pecans can also be crushed in a large bag using a rolling pin or meat mallet. In a separate bowl, toss the pecan pieces in 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour. Add 2 tsp baking soda, 1 ¼ tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, and ¼ tsp salt and thoroughly combine.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on a non-greased baking sheet. Do not flatten the balls. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have set but are still soft, not crispy (they will flatten out in the oven). Let sit on baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to parchment paper or a wire rack to cool.