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For Americans who are trying to maintain their weight or require a special diet, Thanksgiving dinner is dangerous territory. Luckily, there are many options out there for lighter, gluten-free, and vegan dishes. I’ve pulled together a list of 15 healthy Thanksgiving recipes that deliver all of the flavor, and none of the guilt.
*If you don’t want to read my blabber about healthy eating, scroll down to the first picture to reach the recipes. 🙂
Why eat healthy on Thanksgiving?
I have gotten this question for years: “It’s Thanksgiving! (Or Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Tuesday…) Why don’t you let go a little and eat some normal food?”
If you’re reading this, you, like me, have probably made a commitment to eat healthfully whenever possible. Or maybe you’re trying to start. Either way, good for you! Whether for medical, moral, or fitness reasons, I’m glad you’re here.
But let’s be honest. The holidays are the toughest time of year for those of us who have committed to healthful eating. Temptation is everywhere! Sometimes all it takes is one little day of eating what we’re told is “normal food.” Before we know it, we’re back to making food choices we don’t feel good about.
The truth is, you can enjoy the flavors and traditions of Thanksgiving in healthy ways by using lighter, healthier recipes. It’s like the best of both worlds. The flavors of our favorite fall comfort foods, without the guilt of sabotaging our healthful eating plans.
The 15 recipes below are pulled from my favorite healthy food blogs and websites. Some are vegan. Some are gluten-free or dairy-free. However, they are all lighter on sugar and fats than traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Try a few of them out at your Thanksgiving table, or use the list below to plan an entire healthy Thanksgiving meal.
Healthy Thanksgiving Appetizers
Appetizers: Because the best way to preface a day of intense eating is with more eating, right? Well-chosen hors-d’oeuvres can help you fill up on nutrient-rich veggies. As a result, you’ll save yourself from the calorie-rich snacks typically lying around on Thanksgiving day.
Goat Cheese Yogurt Spread from Skinny Ms. This is easy-to-make spread is great on mini toast, pita bread, or as a cracker dip. Goat cheese and purposeful seasoning help this deceptively simple spread pack serious flavor.
Thanksgiving Turkey Veggie Tray from Eating Richly. When in search of something healthy to eat at Thanksgiving, I beeline for the veggie tray. Use sugar snap peas, peppers, cucumbers, and carrots as suggested to create a cute veggie turkey, or change it up with your favorite produce. Bonus recipe: Serve this 3-ingredient skinny ranch dressing from Skinny Kitchen with your veggie tray.
Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Drizzle from Iowa Girl Eats. Show the gluten-free crowd some love with this easy and elegant appetizer. The combination of basil, tomato, and balsamic vinegar is richly satisfying. Because of this, you’ll only choose to eat a few (Rather than the whole plate…). And, they’re quick and easy to assemble!
Pumpkin Hummus from Kim’s Cravings. Put a festive fall spin on a party food favorite! This vegan, gluten-free pumpkin hummus dip is full of heathy unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein. Did I mention it tastes incredible? Your guests won’t even know they’re eating healthy Thanksgiving food!
Healthy Thanksgiving Sides
Turkey may be the star of the Thanksgiving show, but the grand parade of side dishes runs a close second. You can still enjoy your favorite sides while using recipes that are lighter or adapted for special diets. The result? Healthy Thanksgiving sides without the guilt over seconds… or thirds.
Mashed Cauliflower from Detoxinista. In case you haven’t heard, cauliflower can replace pizza crust, potato pancakes, even fried rice. But for healthy Thanksgiving, it steps in for mashed potatoes. Author Megan suggests adding some goat cheese or yogurt to make this vegan, paleo dish even creamier.
Skinny Sweet Potato Casserole from Jessica in the Kitchen. This crowd-pleasing vegan casserole uses touches of cinnamon, maple syrup, and brown sugar to gently enhance the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes. It’s all tucked under a maple pecan topping, which lends a crunchy decadence to the dish. As a result, Jessica says it contains les than half the calories of traditional sweet potato casserole.
Healthy Green Bean Casserole from Hummusapien. How do you maintain the creaminess of traditional green bean casserole without a can of cream of mushroom soup? By subbing in blended cashews. They lend a smooth richness to the dish, with just a hint of nuttiness for depth of flavor. Another vegan standout, this recipe also manages to be light and healthy.
Cauliflower Stuffing from Delish. Cauliflower makes an encore in this low-carb rendition of a Thanksgiving favorite. Traditional bread crumbs are swapped out for chopped cauliflower, while fragrant herbs keep this dish smelling-and tasting-fantastic.
Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry, and Quinoa Salad from Gimme Some Oven. A quick and easy recipe, this vegan and gluten-free salad is lightly dressed with an orange vinaigrette. Nothing says fall like cranberry and orange!
Healthy Thanksgiving Turkey
Turkey is a naturally lean meat, which makes it the perfect centerpiece of a healthy Thanksgiving dinner. Whether your gathering is large or small, meaty or meatless, there’s a perfect main dish for you.
Crockpot Turkey Breast from Chelsea’s Messy Apron. I love this recipe because it’s a breeze in the crockpot. Chelsea’s recipe calls for skin-off turkey breast, which saves some fat and calories.
Rosemary & Thyme Turkey Breast Cutlets from I Wash, You Dry. This simple recipe calls for lean turkey cutlets. It also uses pan drippings to create a quick sauce! Though it’s not specifically a healthy dish, it uses just a touch of butter and olive oil. It would be perfect for a smaller Thanksgiving gathering.
(Almost) Classic Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf from Connoisseurus Veg. This rustic meatloaf is sure to have the vegans and vegetarians at the table begging for more. It includes many traditional meatloaf seasonings, and is topped with a yummy maple glaze.
Healthy Thanksgiving Desserts
Just when you thought you had filled up on healthy Thanksgiving dishes… it’s time for dessert! Swap out a few ingredients and mini-size the portions, and you’ve got desserts your personal trainer would be proud of.
No-Bake Pecan Pie Mini Tarts from Evolving Table. These sweet little bites are a healthy take on ooey, gooey pecan pie. They’re vegan, gluten free, and contain no refined sugar. They can be made in advance, and require no baking. Yes, please!
Gluten, Dairy, and Sugar-Free Pumpkin Pie from MamaShire. If you’re a follower of the Trim Healthy Mama eating philosophy, this one’s for you. It whips up quickly and easily using a gluten-free pie crust. And she even tells you how to make your own at-home sugar substitute!
Paleo Pumpkin Bars from Hummusapien. Also known as, “fall in a bite.” Rich almond butter, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice grace these delicious vegan bars with the warm comfort of autumn. These will be the highlight of your healthy Thanksgiving dessert spread.
The long and short
You don’t have to sabotage your healthful eating plan on Thanksgiving. It’s possible to have a satisfying, great-tasting meal using healthy Thanksgiving recipes, and there are options to meet a variety of dietary needs. You can sprinkle a few healthy recipes in here and there, or plan your entire Thanksgiving meal around healthy eating.
I hope the collection above has inspired you to introduce some healthy dishes to your Thanksgiving table! What are your favorite healthy holiday dishes? Let me know in the comments below!