Healthy (but Still Tasty!) Versions of 7 Classic Thanksgiving Recipes

mashed cauliflower
Image credit: The Forked Spoon

Published on November 8, 2021

By Aly Walansky

Thanksgiving isn’t exactly known for its focus on healthy food. And while turkey may not be bad for us, it’s often surrounded by everything from buttery mashed potatoes to mac and cheese — and all those not-so-healthy fats and empty carbs add up fast. But there’s still time to plan a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and incorporate healthier dishes that won’t feel in any way like a sacrifice. These healthy Thanksgiving recipes are still packed with all of that same nostalgic flavor, but made with better-for-you ingredients. (And if you don’t want to change up your Thanksgiving classics, these are excellent for regular, non-holiday meals all winter long, too.)

1. Vegan & Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole

Healthy Thanksgiving recipes: Sweet potato casserole

This is a healthier spin on classic sweet potato casserole that’s not only great for plant-based guests, but also for those sensitive to dairy and wheat. The crumbly topping is loaded with savory flavors like sage leaves, chives, garlic, and pecans, adding an addictively crunchy texture — and trust us, the flavors will blend so well with a bite of turkey. 

2. Wild Rice Salad with Acorn Squash

wild rice salad with acorn squash

Image credit: Slender Kitchen

We love stuffing at Thanksgiving, but it’s loaded with a bunch of empty carbs that don’t offer much in the way of nutritional value. You may still want to have a classic stuffing on the table, but this wild rice salad — that mixes fresh arugula with wild rice, roasted acorn squash, and cranberries — can make a great addition (or replacement) at the table. 

3. Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

healthy thanksgiving recipes: mashed cauliflower

Image credit: The Forked Spoon

This creamy mashed cauliflower is lower in both carbs and calories than regular mashed potatoes, but might be even more delicious. You’ll still find sour cream, parmesan cheese, garlic, and butter in there, so it still feels indulgent (while also being keto-approved). If you want to lighten it further, replace the butter with coconut oil or ghee, and the sour cream with Greek yogurt.

4. Oven-Roasted Delicata Squash

Oven-Roasted Delicata Squash Recipe

Image credit: The Forked Spoon

OK, this one isn’t a replacement for any specific unhealthy dish, but this vegan, oven-roasted delicata squash is just such perfect option (especially for vegetarian guests!) that we couldn’t leave it out. It’s also a delicious, easy side dish for those eating turkey. Roasted with maple syrup, butter, and a dash of cinnamon, this dish tastes perfectly seasonal. 

5. Sautéed Green Beans with Shallots 

sauteed green beans

Image credit: Hot Pan Kitchen

So many green bean dishes at Thanksgiving are covered in canned soup and fried onions. This alternative lightens the classic dish by blending fresh green beans with shallots sautéed in ghee, keeping things flavorful without the heaviness of traditional dairy butter. A few shakes of chili pepper flakes at the end would complement this dish nicely. 

6. Instant Pot Crab Mac and Cheese

Healthy Thanksgiving recipes: Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Image credit: Dish on Fish 

Mac and cheese is many people’s favorite Thanksgiving side, so there’s no way we’d want to remove it from the table altogether. However, there are a few modifications you can make to keep things light. This version kicks the standard side up a notch by using whole wheat elbows for added fiber, and offers the interesting (and rather elevating) addition of crab as extra protein. You can even use your milk of choice — 2%, like the recipe recommends — or whatever version you prefer.

7. Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Paleo pumpkin pie

Image credit: Dr. Kellyann

For a cleaner take on Thanksgiving’s favorite pie, this healthy, easy Paleo version is a must-have for dessert. It’s loaded with warming spices and sweetened with honey and maple syrup, making it a nutritious, lighter option you can feel great about eating. Bonus: Preparation takes less than an hour for both the filling and the crust.

Good food brings people together.
So do good emails.

Good food brings people together.
So do good emails.

Good food brings people together.
So do good emails.