Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes

On Thanksgiving Day around here, no one wonders how many calories are in the sweet potato soufflé or if the rolls were prepared with whole wheat flour. What my family members want to know is what time dinner will be served and what flavors of pie were prepared for dessert.

Just because Thanksgiving is a day of feasting doesn’t mean we can’t be nutrition-conscious. Check out these dishes that are full of flavor and nutrients.

However, just because Thanksgiving is a day for feasting doesn’t mean we can’t still be nutrition-conscious. The following recipes are perfect examples that we don’t have to compromise flavor when preparing healthier versions of Thanksgiving favorites.

What constitutes “traditional” and “favorite” varies by region, culture, and individual preference. Rather than trying to be inclusive (and writing a ridiculously long post), I’m going to consider the following common dishes to be traditional favorites:

  • Turkey and dressing (or stuffing)
  • Sweet potato casserole or soufflé
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Green bean casserole
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Pies

Healthier versions of traditional Thanksgiving foods

Turkey and dressing (or stuffing)

Turkey is typically the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted turkey is relatively healthy, so I won’t recommend alternatives to it. However, the same can’t be said for deep-fried turkey, so stick to the roasted varieties.

There are so many ways to make dressing or stuffing that it is inaccurate to say that all varieties of it are unhealthy. However, many traditional versions are high in calories, carbs, fat, and sodium. For a more nutritious option, try one of the following,

Sweet potato casserole or soufflé

Many of us prepare sweet potato casseroles or soufflés that are more like desserts than side dishes. I love butter and brown sugar as much as the next person, but I also think some of these healthier methods of preparation would be tasty.

Mashed potatoes and gravy

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional serving of mashed potatoes that are rich and creamy due to a large dose of butter and cream. However, a few small changes can make these significantly more nutritious.

Green bean casserole

Green bean casserole is a vegetable side dish, so it can’t be that bad…right? If you make a popular variety that contains lots of butter, preservative-laden canned cream of mushroom soup, French fried onions, and/or cheese, then I think you know the answer!

Macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese is very high in calories and contains limited nutrients. Given how much my family loves it, we could really benefit from these healthier versions.


I know that it’s pretty audacious of me to rip on Thanksgiving pies, but many of them could be prepared in more healthy manners. Most are packed full of sugar and/or corn syrup. A few small tweaks and these lose some of the sugar, but keep all of the flavor.

I can’t wait to try some of these! Do any sound good to you? How do you prepare a healthier version of your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Shared at the following:

Monday’s Musings, Tuesdays with a Twist, Coffee and Conversation, and The Art of Home-Making.












  1. These are great ideas! That oatmeal pie crust has me intrigued. I don’t make pie very often, but next time I do, I’ll have to give that a try! For Thanksgiving, since I won’t be doing much of the cooking (we’re visiting family), I think I’ll try to focus a lot on portion control. It’s so easy, with all the delicious food, to eat more than I need to-so this year I’m going to focus on temperance and eating smaller amounts of the foods I like 🙂 And I’m curious-does your family usually eat mac n’ cheese on Thanksgiving? I’ve heard of other people doing this, but I’ve never been to a Thanksgiving meal with mac n’ cheese before, so I’m wondering if it’s particular to a region of the U.S.

    • I want to try the oatmeal pie crust, too! I actually just made a pie this morning for a get together tomorrow night. Unfortunately, I have a lot going on, so I settled for the convenience of one I bought at the store. 🙁
      We always eat mac and cheese at Thanksgiving (and Christmas, Easter, etc.). My family has for as long as I can remember. I think it was just something my mom’s family did (they all lived in the Colorado/Wyoming area). However, I married into a family from the Deep South. From what I’ve seen, Mac and Cheese is very popular in the South and common at gatherings. We’ve had it when we have celebrated Thanksgiving with his family in Mississippi.
      Do you eat the other foods on the list or are other foods “traditional” for your family?

      • Wow, that’s fascinating! I had no idea that mac n’ cheese was such a big deal in the South. My parents usually serve turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, rolls, and sometimes a salad that has canned fruits, sour cream, and coconut in it (it’s a tradition to serve that dish on big holidays). I actually never had green bean casserole until I was in college! I like it a lot, but for some reason unknown to me, it’s just never been a “tradition” in my family.

        • My paternal grandmother used to make a fruit salad kind of like that.
          It’s truly amazing how much these traditions differ from one family to the next!

  2. Wow, I love it all – especially the pies!

  3. awesome ideas! Thanks for these 🙂 I’m always trying to add a bit of healthy food to our menu plan.

  4. Thanks for a great list of healthier options!

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