Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday in the United States. It involves my favorite things:
- Football (I totally want to buy this tablecloth!)
I follow a pretty standard 80/20 rule when it comes to healthy eating: I try to make healthy choices 80% of the time, and 20% of the time I indulge in the foods and sweet treats that truly do make life worth living. At Thanksgiving, that means that I try to fill my plate with delicious, filling, healthy items, so that when I dive face-first into the pumpkin pie with whipped cream (yum), I enjoy and appreciate every decadent bite.
Now, this is when I need to make a confession to you. While I absolutely love to eat, and I love everything about food, I’m really not a great cook. I rely heavily on recipes from trusted chefs and friends, and luckily, I have a great group of registered dietitians in my inner circle.
So, I asked them to share some of their favorite healthy side dishes for the holidays, and they really came through! I’ve broken it into seven absolutely drool-worthy sections.
Photo credit: Homemade Nutrition
I love stuffing. Although, I do have to say that I prefer calling it dressing, especially because I prefer to cook mine outside of the turkey (although I’m flexible on that).
There are two main things I love about these Stuffing Muffins from Amber at Homemade Nutrition. Her trick about making them into muffins means that they have built-in portion control, as well as crispy edges. And for a bonus treat, she adds dried cranberries.
Photo credit: Nutrition Starring YOU
Speaking of cranberries, my table isn’t complete without a sauce and a relish (and yes, there is a difference). I love that tart-but-sweet side that seems to mix so well with everything else on the plate.
Lauren of Nutrition Starring YOU has an amazing-looking cranberry orange ginger relish that is also gluten-free, vegan and made with no added sugar. If you like something a little more traditional, Annemarie from Real Food Real Deals has an option that uses maple syrup for a sweetener and cooks in the slow cooker, which will free you up to make other yummy items. Also, everything I’ve ever made at the suggestion of Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean is a winner, so this fresh cranberry sauce is definitely on my must-make list.
Photo credit: fANNEtastic food
I love vegetables. Always have. And Thanksgiving is such a great opportunity to indulge in some of my fall favorites, from green beans (these from Anne at fANNEtastic food have lemon and garlic and look so elegant!) to roasted root vegetables like these honey and parsnip sticks from Aggie at Aggie’s Kitchen.
I am so passionate about veggies that I can’t only give you two choices, so here are some others:
- Mix salty and sweet with this recipe for green beans with pecans, cranberries and parmesan from Karman at The Nutrition Adventure
- Try a twist on squash with a roasted acorn squash with pomegranate and pistachios from Steph at The Grateful Grazer
- Take a breather and enjoy a glass of wine while you wait for this slow cooker rosemary acorn squash from Jenna at Make Healthy Easy
- Try something simple with these roasted parsnips with rosemary from Jenny at My Cape Code Kitchen
- Even the pickiest eater at the table will love these roasted maple-mustard glazed brussels sprouts from Julie at RDelicious Kitchen
- Give your veggie dish an edge with these smoked brussels sprouts with cashew cream from Alanna at Eat Real Food
- Satisfy every sweet tooth in the room before you even serve dessert with this roasted delicata squash with maple syrup from Katie at Mom’s Kitchen Handbook
I find that a mandoline is a really great kitchen tool, too. It makes slicing vegetables really easy.
Photo credit: Food Confidence
Mmmmmm, starches. I would rather eat potatoes than bread, but since they’re a year-round staple, I love recipes that mix things up, and I really prefer sweet potatoes at the holidays because they just taste like childhood memories.
And COME ON. These twice-baked sweet potatoes with warm wild blueberries from Danielle at Food Confidence are like an entree-side-dessert in one. I also love the idea of using cinnamon, like Kelli at Hungry Hobby does in her maple roasted sweet potato recipe.
Photo credit: The Lean Green Bean
Breads & muffins
I know I just said I’d rather have potatoes than bread but oh my goodness: these cranberry-corn muffins, also from Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean, look so delicate and delicious. (I think I’d make them for the morning after Thanksgiving, actually!)
Photo credit: The Lean Green Bean
I don’t remember having a lot of soups at my own childhood Thanksgiving table, but in the years after college, I was lucky enough to celebrate at the homes of other friends and family members, and they almost always served a soup, either as a starter or on the table along with the main entrees. Lindsay’s curried sweet potato soup has all of the fall flavors… but with a twist.
I’m also CRAZY in love with this soup tureen – it’s pretty and functional.
Photo credit: Mom’s Kitchen Handbook
I love salads every day of the year, and there’s almost nothing I don’t like mixed in. But for Thanksgiving, a deliciously healthy salad is such a smart way to fill your stomach and give you the best flavors of the season, without making you feel as stuffed as the turkey.
Kale salads have really become quite trendy, and for good reason: they’re fantastic. Katie (Mom’s Kitchen Handbook) has a really gorgeous colorful cabbage salad with apple, walnuts and cranberries and you can always experiment by adding your own unique ingredients before tossing with a light vinaigrette. Try some of my favorites: pomegranates, pear and avocado.
Here’s to a healthy holiday for you and your loved ones. Now, tell me: what’s on your menu this year? (Bonus points if you tell me you’ll be wearing this festive apron in the kitchen.)
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