From mash potatoes to pumpkin pie, we asked nutritionists to share the healthy meals that they bring to the Thanksgiving table
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“My favorite thing to make on Thanksgiving is my swedish nuts. It's a recipe from my book The Sugar Detox and the nuts are baked with tons of flavorful spices like cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. I love to make them early as they smell up the whole house with a great scent. It's a great snacking food for my guests that won't ruin their appetite for the main meal! We normally use leftovers on top of plain full fat Greek yogurt the next morning! “
-Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., and founder of B. Nutritious
(Also, nuts and Greek Yogurt are two of the 9 Foods Everyday Healthy Kitchen Needs.)
Asparagus with Fresh Pomegranate Arils
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"November is pomegranate month and I wait all year long to enjoy this short-seasoned fruit—plus, asparagus is one of the few vegetables my husband loves cooked. My two-year-old daughter says 'mmm' every time I make this meal. Since it makes my family happy, it makes me happy!"
-Rebecca Scritchfield, M.A, R.D, H.F.S
Photo: Rebecca Scritchfield
Sweet Potato Fries
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"I’m not a fan of marshmallows, so instead, I love to make sweet potato French fries on Thanksgiving. One cup of cooked sweet potato (with skin) is packed with nutrients and provides an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. These taste great, even without the sea salt."
-Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D.N, C.D.N., author of Younger Next Week.
Photo: Getty Images
Roasted Cauliflower and Broccolini
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"In addition to all the traditional Thanksgiving recipes—stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey, and gravy—I always make several vegetable side dishes. I love making oven roasted cauliflower with garlic, olive oil, and a little freshly ground parmesan cheese. I'll also sauté some broccolini with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. These simple dishes are so easy to cook, and they are always gone by the end of dinner—leaving less room for dessert!
-Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D.N., author of Eat Right When Time is Tight
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"My favorite dish, hands down, is mashed potatoes, I could eat them everyday. I use new potatoes and keep the skin on when mashing for a little extra fiber. I admit my recipe includes butter, but I cut back on it a little by using some olive oil in its place. Warm non-fat milk replaces the typical whole milk and/or heavy cream. Potatoes are packed with vitamin C which is a real plus during the cold weather to help keep your immune system strong."
-Keri Gans, M.S, R.D.N, C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet
(Whether or not you eat wheat, try these 7 Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes that Everyone Will Love.)
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"At holiday time, one of my go-to picks is pistachios! I use them throughout the meal, such as warmed with fresh rosemary served with a 'shot' of butternut squash soup or simply sprinkled into a bibb, basil, and apple salad.
But one of my favorite things to do is the easiest; put out a festive bowl of in-shell pistachios—either as is or alongside apple wedges and honey-drizzled soft cheese. As one of the lowest calorie snack nuts, they make a mindful, weight-sensible holiday nosh at cocktail hour to balance festive, calorie-laden favorites. With their six grams of protein and heart-healthful fats in every serving, they may help guests feel full longer. Plus, the visual cue of the empty shells coupled with the time it takes to crack this snack may help prevent overindulging!"
-Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook
Photo: Jackie Newgent
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"My husband grows Brussel sprouts and picks them right before Thanksgiving. We roast them with olive oil and bits of bacon to bring out the sweetness of the vegetable. They are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are cruciferous vegetables that provide compounds that help protect against cancer. But I eat them because they taste good. Admittedly, they are an acquired taste, but I think people should try them at least once!"
-Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better
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"I love to make fresh cranberry sauce and since fresh cranberries aren't available year round, cooking with them feels really special. They're also bursting with health benefits like immune-supporting vitamin C. In addition to helping prevent urinary tract infections, natural substances in cranberries help prevent ulcers and gum disease, reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol, raise 'good' HDL, and lower risk of certain cancers including breast. If I have leftover cranberry sauce, I'll add it to oatmeal with nuts for breakfast, or toss it with fresh spinach as a veggie side dish."
-Cynthia Sass author of the New York Times best seller S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches
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"I take advantage of Mother Nature's colorful palate by roasting an array of veggies. This dish is so beautiful and welcoming that even those who usually turn up their noses when the vegetable dish is passed around, are willing to try some of these! The benefits of these vegetables are well-known—loaded with fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols, and all of those powerful nutrients that we just don't seem to get enough of. This superfood dish will be a sensation to help decorate any table any time of year."
-Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., author of Read It Before You Eat It, and a New York-based nutrition expert
Photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix
Mini Maple Pumpkin Pies
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"I love dessert—who doesn’t? And these Mini Maple Pumpkin Pies are the perfect dish to serve after enjoying a big Thanksgiving feast because it's portion-controlled. It may be mini in size but it’s big on flavor! Plus, they’re easy to make, loaded with beta carotene (hello, gorgeous skin!), and look impressive on the table. My kids love this dessert so much, they ask for it all year long!"
-Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D.N.,
NBC’s Today Show Nutrition & Health Expert, and Founder of Nourish Snacks.
Also, check out the Best (and Worst) Thanksgiving Pies for Weight Loss.
Photo: Joy Bauar