Healthy Thanksgiving Sides You'll Want to Keep Making Long Past Turkey Day
Healthy Thanksgiving Sides
Whether you're playing hostess with the mostest or coming as a guest, Thanksgiving always seems to center around one thing—which, ironically, isn't giving thanks. Thanksgiving is all about the food: what you'll serve, what you'll eat, and how much you'll indulge. But indulgence doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing nutrition. Your grandma's sweet potato casserole can easily pack in loads of flavor and nutrients.
There's no shame in looking forward to your Thanksgiving feast (nor is there any shame in wearing stretchy pants in preparation). Just because you indulge a little (or a lot) one day out of the year doesn't mean your nutrition goals go out the window, says Gabby Geerts, a registered dietitian working with Green Chef. The key is not to view certain foods as "off-limits" and balance your Turkey Day meal with healthy Thanksgiving sides that include lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, unsaturated oils, and yes, some of the sweet stuff, too, explains Geerts. (Related: We Seriously Need to Stop Thinking of Foods As 'Good' and 'Bad')
After all, the holidays—and the special foods associated with them—are meant to be enjoyed. If you're hoping to create a happy medium on your Turkey Day table, think about contributing one (or more) of the following healthy Thanksgiving sides that are just as nutritious as they are delicious.
Brussels Sprouts with Tahini-Turmeric Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds
Every classic bowl of Brussels sprouts could use a bit of color. Juicy pomegranate seeds add a burst of flavor, while the recipe's Middle Eastern-style tahini dressing adds a creamy element. Top with mint leaves for a hint of freshness.
Creamy Rainbow Chard
Whether you've been following the keto diet for some time now or you're just cutting back on carbs here and there, this creamy rainbow chard recipe will hit the spot.
ICYDK, rainbow chard refers to the stalk of Swiss chard, which often ranges from a white to hot pink or red coloring (the hues grow darker the higher they go toward the top of the vegetable). It's rich in vitamins A, K, and iron, so you can indulge in this healthy Thanksgiving side happily knowing underneath the heavy cream, cream cheese, and parmesan, you're reaping a handful of nutrients.
Kale Pomegranate Chicken Caesar Salad with Pumpkin Seeds
Not to steal the turkey's spotlight, but chicken caesar salad is always a popular side dish. This colorful salad adds an autumnal twist to the classic chicken caesar. Instead of romaine, this healthy Thanksgiving side dish is tossed with kale leaves that are nutrient-dense and swarming with vitamins A, C, and K. Antioxidant-rich pomegranate adds a hint of fruity flavor, while the combination of chicken and pumpkin seeds packs a double punch of protein plus fiber, magnesium, and healthy fats.
Warm Delicata Squash Salad
Delicata Squash (aka sweet potato squash) tastes like a dessert with all the nutritional benefits you'd expect from a healthy Thanksgiving side dish. Low-calorie and high in the antioxidant beta carotene, as well as vitamin C, this simple salad is swarming with flavor from spices like dried chili flakes, fresh oregano, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Sweet Potatoes with Apple Butter
This recipe combines everything you love about autumn: sweet potato (which tastes super similar to pumpkin) and apple. Sweet potato is a high-fiber food (great for keeping you regular post-Thanksgiving feast) and is also a great source of B vitamins as well as beta carotene (an antioxidant). Apple butter isn't exactly rich with nutrients, but because it's made from whole apples, it does contain a (very) small amount of fiber.
Any well-balanced meal should have lots of colors, and these glazed carrots by Martha Stewart will certainly add vibrancy to the table. Simmering carrots in OJ enriches their natural sweetness, and with a little butter and spices added to the pan, the finished product will taste even more indulgent. But don't be fooled: This healthy Thanksgiving side dish is packed with nutrients like vitamins C and K, folate, iron, and potassium—all good stuff to help you fight off germs during cold and flu season.
Brussels Sprouts Pizza with Lemon and Pecorino
Who says you can't add pizza to the Thanksgiving menu this year? This seasonal flatbread calls for shredded Brussels sprouts, crushed red pepper, and lemon zest for toppings over a bed of mozzarella and pecorino romano and mozzarella cheese. Good for your body and even better for your taste buds? Now that's amore.
Rye Stuffing with Greens and Herbs
Stuffing is typically heavy on the bread-y carbs (aka just the way you like it), but this recipe dials down on the dough. Adding a variety of veggies—red onion, kale, carrots, and celery—and herbs, like thyme, rosemary, and sage to this healthy Thanksgiving side gives the dish a significant nutrient boost. Plus, turkey bone broth aids in digestion, and who couldn't use a little help in that department on Thanksgiving?
Sheet Pan Roasted Veggies
Nothing says #health like a hearty serving of veggies. This super healthy Thanksgiving side is not only nutritious, but it's also incredibly simple to throw together. Chop up a medley of autumnal favorites (think butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, red onion, and apples), sprinkle in some heart-healthy pecans, season it all with warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and pop it in the oven to bake.
Garlic Roasted Potatoes
This garlic roasted potatoes recipe from vegan blogger Liv B is an excellent healthy Thanksgiving side dish for families who love spuds but are looking to pass on the fluffy mashed potatoes loaded with butter and milk this year. The recipe calls for five ingredients—potatoes (which are high in B vitamins and a decent source of fiber), olive oil (a healthy fat), garlic cloves (which boast a ton of surprising health benefits), paprika (rich in vitamin A and even iron), and salt to taste. Plus, it only takes about 50 minutes to prepare with minimum grunt work on your end.
Simple Fall Slaw
This healthy Thanksgiving side falls under the same category as macaroni and cheese and flatbread pizza: unconventional. Still, this fall coleslaw from the Minimalist Baker is an epic holiday side dish loaded with crisp, fresh flavor and a ton of fruits and vegetables. And unlike traditional coleslaw, this fall slaw is lightly coated with tahini dressing made from sesame seed butter, apple cider vinegar, lemon, maple syrup, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a drizzle of EVO or avocado oil.
Healthy Mac and Cheese
Typically "health" and "mac and cheese" don't really go together, but somehow food blogger and developer Rachel Mansfield made it happen. Even better: It's relatively simple to make. The recipe calls for gluten-free pasta and full-fat coconut milk (a healthy fat that offers a ton of nutrients), but the key ingredient in this recipe is Bonafide Provisions Organic Turkey Bone Broth (Buy It, $13, bonafideprovisions.com), which not only enhances the overall flavor of the dish, but is also a great source of collagen, improves joint health and digestion, reduces inflammation, and more.