Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate everything you’re grateful for, including your body. Care for it with nourishing recipes and nutrient-rich swaps that enhance flavor. What should you make? Here are 20 healthy Thanksgiving recipes to add to your menu.
Healthy Thanksgiving Appetizers
Your healthy Thanksgiving recipes begin with appetizers while your guests mingle. Stick to finger foods to let people circulate while they munch. From a hearty bowl of soup to a charcuterie plate, these dishes will bring everyone to the table for the official first course.
1. Cheese Platter
A cheese platter is easy to assemble. You can make it charcuterie-style by adding nuts, whole-grain crackers, pita squares, veggies, and fruits amid the cheddar, parmesan, and Monterey Jack cheeses.
2. Olive Oil and Balsamic Dip
To make a healthy Thanksgiving dish that everyone can enjoy, create an olive oil and balsamic dip for various dippers, which could include pita chips and vegetables. It’s a perfect addition to your charcuterie-style snack tray, too. Simply blend olive oil, which contains a balance of oleic to linoleic acid, to nurture your cardiovascular health, with a little balsamic vinegar, plain Greek yogurt, and your favorite spices, and chill before serving.1
3. Sikil Pak
Sikil Pak is a pumpkin seed dip. It’s high in filling fiber and uses your leftovers from pie filling. You’ll need:
- 1 cup raw, roasted pumpkin seeds
- 2 roasted Roma tomatoes
- 1 chopped habanero
- ½ yellow onion
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup lime juice
- Fresh cilantro to taste
Roast the seeds until brown and the tomatoes until lightly charred. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill before serving.
4. Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, especially the DHA and EPA forms that are tough to get from plants.2 Plus, it’s simple to prepare if you purchase the shrimp already de-veined and cooked. Serve it over ice in a festive bowl with cocktail sauce.
5. Roasted Pumpkin Soup
When it’s time to gather the gang around the table, spoon this healthy Thanksgiving recipe into their bowls:3
- 2 15-ounce cans pumpkin puree
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 large sliced onions
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon dried ginger
Caramelize the onions in butter in a large pot over medium heat before stirring in the garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Mix for one minute. Use a bit of chicken broth to remove stuck bits before adding the remaining broth, water, and pumpkin puree. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes.
Turn the stove off and puree the soup, adding heavy cream. Ladle into bowls.
Healthy Thanksgiving Sides
Why settle for carb-laden comas? These healthy Thanksgiving side dishes stick to your ribs without significantly disrupting your glucose levels.
6. Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than standard white russets, making this sweet potato casserole the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving lineup. Additionally, sweet potatoes are chock-full of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that your body needs for eye and brain health. To make this dish, gather:
- 4 pounds sweet potatoes
- ⅓ cup warm milk
- ⅓ cup softened butter
Wash the sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks, and boil them for approximately 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and add the milk and butter to a bowl. Using a mixer, beat to creamy perfection.
If you prefer to omit the milk and butter, you could serve roasted sweet potatoes instead. Slice the sweet potatoes into cubes and roast in the oven at 450 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.
7. Roasted Butternut Squash
Butternut squash cubes make fabulous sides for turkey. They’re colorful, full of nutrients and fiber, and a snap to make. Peel a whole butternut squash and then slice the vegetable into cubes (or buy pre-cubed squash), toss with olive oil and seasoning (we love garlic salt and onion powder), and bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Another favorite variation on this roasted vegetable recipe is to make it slightly sweeter with 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup and ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Follow the same baking instructions as above.
8. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Here’s another healthy Thanksgiving side that’s easy to assemble. To make this dish, gather a handful of Brussels sprouts and half each sprout. Season the veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake them in an oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes.
9. Green Bean Casserole
Given the creamy, carb-laden mushroom soup traditionally used in this recipe, you might not think green bean casserole could qualify as low glycemic. However, this recipe goes keto to keep the carb count low for a healthy Thanksgiving dish:4
- 2 pounds of green beans
- 10 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil
- 1.5 cups chicken broth
- 1.5 cups half and half or a dairy-free option
- ½ cup blanched almond flour
- 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil
Saute the mushrooms and onions in avocado oil while you cook the green beans on the stovetop for about seven to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Place the cooked ingredients in a baking dish and stir in the chicken broth and half-and-half.
In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, minced onion, and a second teaspoon of avocado oil. Sprinkle over the mushroom-bean mixture and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Cauliflower Mash
Cauliflower mash makes an awesome low-glycemic alternative to mashed potatoes. You can even play with the texture by pureeing and adding it to a potato mix or serving it by itself. You only need two ingredients for the basic recipe:
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 tablespoons butter
Steam the cauliflower until fork tender. Drain any liquid, then melt the butter in a saucepan. Puree the cooked cauliflower in a food processor with the butter. To spice up your recipe, add red pepper, chopped parsley, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, thyme, chives, or a combination of your choice.
11. Quinoa, Walnut and Cranberry Stuffing
Ancient grains, such as quinoa, are rich in filling fiber, which decreases the changes in glucose levels that often occur after eating. Try this recipe for a hearty taste of the season:5
- 5 ½ cups vegetable broth, reserving ½ cup
- 2 ½ cups quinoa
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups chopped kale
- 2 tablespoons each of olive oil and unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 large onion, diced
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons each of sage and thyme
- 1 cup chopped celery
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Bring the vegetable broth to a boil, then add the quinoa, salt, and pepper. Once the broth is absorbed, remove it from the heat, let it sit for five minutes, and stir in the chopped kale. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit, and warm the butter and oil in a pan. Saute all the aromatics, then add the celery and reserved broth. Stir the quinoa, seasoned veggies, cranberries, and walnuts, then transfer the mixture to a 9x13-inch pan and bake until golden.
Healthy Thanksgiving Main Dishes
The star of your healthy Thanksgiving meal is the main course. Turkey is naturally lean, and you can include vegan and vegetarian options for those with dietary restrictions so they can still enjoy this part of your Thanksgiving menu.
12. Turkey Breast
Opting for poultry over red meat can lower your risk of heart disease by nineteen percent. Everyone has their favorite way of cooking a turkey, from a traditional roast to deep-fried and grilled. When deciding which turkey recipe to use, remember that dunking your bird in oil will considerably increase the calorie and fat content.
Our favorite recipe for the best Thanksgiving turkey is below to try out!
- 1 whole turkey (12-16 pounds), thawed
- 2 cups chicken broth, vegetable stock, or water
- 1 cup of melted unsalted butter or oil (optional)
Prepare the turkey for roasting by letting it come to room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking. Remove any giblets or packaging and set the turkey breast-side up on a roasting rack. Set the rack on a roasting pan.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Add your chosen liquid to the roasting pan under the rack. Place the turkey in the oven and turn down the heat to 350 degrees. Roast the turkey for 13 minutes per pound, basting every 45 minutes with pan juices. This will crisp up the skin and turn it golden brown. After cooking, remove the bird from the oven, tent the pan with foil, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
13. Roasted Chicken
The trick with roast chicken is to get the internal temperature right without drying out the bird. Use a meat thermometer and low heat to reach 175° F before serving. Cook the stuffing separately, as there’s a slight risk of bacterial contamination if it doesn’t cook thoroughly inside the fowl.
Are you short on time and oven space? One of our favorite ways to cook a roasted chicken is in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
- 5 lb whole chicken, with neck and giblets removed
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic pepper
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Combine all the dry spices and brown sugar in a small bowl. Coat the slow cooker with cooking spray, and roll a piece of aluminum foil into a ring shape to fit into the bottom of the slow cooker as a rack.
Place the chicken on the aluminum foil ring and rub the spice mixture on it. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
14. Acorn Squash
To roast an acorn squash, brush it with olive oil and bake it at 400 ° F for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the inside is fork tender. For an elegant presentation, add a scoop of stuffing or wild rice to the center. Our favorite stuffing recipe can be found here.
15. Mushroom Wellington
This dish looks super elegant and will make your vegan friends feel included while passing on the bird:6
- 4 large portobello mushrooms with stalks
- 3 large chopped onions
- 10 ounces baby spinach
- 4 sprigs thyme leaves
- 1 vegan puff pastry
- 3 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Vegan egg wash
Saute onions in oil for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove onions, and using the same pan, cook spinach until wilted. Remove spinach, and using the pan, cook mushrooms until lightly golden. Chill the cooked veggies in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 200° F. Spread the puff pastry on a baking sheet. Add the onions, spinach, and mushrooms before topping with the Dijon mustard, thyme, and any remaining veggies. Roll the pastry into a log, brush with egg wash, and chill for ten minutes. Then, brush with a second egg wash and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and flaky.
Healthy Thanksgiving Desserts
End your meal with these healthy Thanksgiving desserts. Although most adult palettes find these plenty sweet, a few clever substitutions delight those who can’t celebrate the holiday without sugar.
16. Pumpkin Pie
A healthy swap — like using maple syrup instead of sugar — keeps this recipe keto-friendly.
- 1 low-carb almond flour pie crust
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- ½ cup heavy cream or coconut cream
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 325°. Beat all ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the pie nearly sets but remains a jello-like consistency. Allow to cool to set and chill for at least two hours.
Do you want to make an extra sweet pie for the sugar-loving set? If so, remove the pie and let it cool on the countertop until set. Then, spread a layer of marshmallow on top and quickly broil it on low heat — it will take less than a minute to form a lovely brown crust. Adding this step is also a fun way to let kids help.
17. Fruit Cornucopias
Here’s an easy, healthy Thanksgiving dessert recipe that uses fresh fruit and honey to add an antioxidant punch to your meal’s end. Use low-carb almond flour cones to make these keto-friendly.
- Mixed fruit that won’t melt the cones, like fresh berries and citrus slices
- Pomegranate seeds
- Ice cream cones
Fill each cone with fruit, drizzle with honey and pomegranate seeds, and serve. Add a scoop of flax and chia seeds for extra crunch and healthy lignans if desired.
Healthy Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes
No healthy Thanksgiving recipe list would be complete without planning for leftovers. Here’s what you can whip up with the remainder.
18. Turkey Shepherd's Pie
You don’t even need a recipe to make leftover turkey shepherd’s pie. Your most delicious creation might come from simply blending multiple ingredients remaining in your fridge.
All you need is filling and topping. Preheat your oven to 350° and spritz a lasagna pan with avocado oil. For the filling, blend turkey, stuffing, and vegetables in a food processor until chopped. Place them in the pan. Use the remaining mashed cauliflower and sweet potatoes for a creamy topping spread atop the mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until thoroughly warmed. Serve with leftover gravy.
19. Turkey Stock for Soup
Turkey soup is the ideal way to use “waste” like bones. Instead of tossing them, make a stock on the day of your feast. Keep the carcass in the pan, heating it with chopped onion, shallots, garlic, celery, carrots, or any remaining veggies from other recipes. Add about four quarts of water to cover everything, then simmer on low heat for two to four hours while you enjoy time with your guests.
After you finish the other cleanup, strain the stock to remove any solid chunks and fat. If kept in the refrigerator, use within three to four days; otherwise, freeze in freezer bags for up to six months. Use as a base broth for future turkey or chicken soup.8
20. Turkey Tacos
All you need for turkey tacos are leftover meat, tortillas, peppers, and any other toppings you’d like. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, which is found in many arthritis creams and has anti-inflammatory properties.9 Red bell peppers have more vitamin C than oranges to boost immunity during cold and flu season.10 Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces, heat it in a pan with peppers of your choice, and add to a hard or soft shell with cheese and lettuce.
Learn More About Staying Healthy During the Holidays with Signos
The holidays need not tax your health. Instead, nurture your well-being with these healthy Thanksgiving recipes and science-backed advice from the world’s top nutritional experts.
Topics discussed in this article:
1. Belaj, Angjelina, et. al. “The Oleic/Linoleic Acid Ratio in Olive (Olea europea L.) Fruit Mesocarp Is Mainly Controlled by OeFAD2-2 and OeFAD2-5 Genes Together With the Different Specificity of Extraplastidial Acyltransferase Enzymes.” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2021.653997
2. Gerea, Alexandra. “What’s the Difference Between Omega-3 From Plants, Fish and Algae?” https://www.zmescience.com/medicine/whats-the-difference-between-omega-3-from-plants-fish-and-algae/
3. “Pumpkin Soup.” https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/easy-pumpkin-soup/
4. “Gluten-Free Keto Green Bean Casserole Recipe.” https://www.wholesomeyum.com/recipes/low-carb-green-bean-casserole-gluten-free/
5. “Gluten-Free Quinoa Stuffing.” https://www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com/gluten-free-walnut-and-kale-quinoa-stuffing/
6. “Vegan Mushroom Wellington Recipe.” https://ohmyveggies.com/mushroom-wellington/
7. “How to Make Delicious Dessert Pizza.” Retrieved from https://giordanos.com/how-to-make-delicious-dessert-pizza/
8. :Turkey Bone Broth or Turkey Stock.” https://thefoodcharlatan.com/turkey-broth-from-the-bones/
9. Huang, Chi-Jung, et al. “Improvement of Wound Healing by Capsaicin Through Suppression of the Inflammatory Response and Amelioration of the Repair Process.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10350740/
10. “17 Foods High in Vitamin C.” https://health.clevelandclinic.org/sources-of-vitamin-c/