We can all agree Thanksgiving is a special day to come together and feast to our heart’s content. Many of us will eat until we are so full that we are forced to retire to the couch.
It’s the one day of the year where binge eating is praised and socially rewarded. This overabundance of fatty foods and calories, however, is not easy for the body to process.
There are many healthy alternative Thanksgiving side dishes you can serve to your family, and they are worth trying.
As more people turn vegan and vegetarian, you might even be praised by friends and family members for providing a healthy selection of dishes they can eat, and wholeheartedly enjoy.
We’ve created a special list of 9 Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes, with healthy substitutions for each recipe.
1. Baked Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is a winter squash that tastes very similar to sweet potato. It’s full of fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants that promote a healthy heart.
You can buy acorn squash in advance, and store it at room temperature for up to two months before it goes bad.
It’s so easy to cook. Just cut the squash vertically, from top to bottom, and place both halves on a baking sheet. Baking the squash makes sure its natural nutrients are not lost in the cooking process.
If you want a salty version of this recipe, drizzle some olive oil and add kosher salt.
If you prefer a sweeter flavor, you can add a slight sprinkle of brown sugar or maple syrup. It tastes heavenly.
This Thanksgiving side dish is really satisfying! You can core the center of each half before baking, and stuff it with creamed corn or green bean casserole. This will add flavor and win food styling points with your family.
Just make sure you have enough oven space. If you have too many mouths to feed, you might have to cut the squash into quarters so everyone can have their own piece.
2. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Did you know brussels sprouts are in peak season from September to February? Perfect for Thanksgiving!
They are easy to grow at home but take a long time before they’re ready to harvest. If you don’t have a vegetable garden, that’s fine. They are also readily available to buy.
Brussels sprouts have a higher price than other leafy greens, but they’re well worth the cost! When deciding which brussels sprouts to buy, be selective. Smaller sprouts have a sweeter flavor and taste the best.
Roasted brussels sprouts are a very healthy Thanksgiving side dish. They are full of fiber and antioxidants that help protect against cancer and reduce inflammation.
This recipe is easy to make ahead of time. Using a hot pan, olive oil and kosher salt, you can roast the brussels sprouts in just a few minutes.
Once cooked, they have a delicious creamy center that many enjoy. They pair perfectly with glazed carrots. You can also use any leftovers to make a brussels sprout salad to serve the following day.
3. Creamed Spinach
We can’t talk about Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes without including creamed spinach.
It’s one of my family’s favorites and a healthy choice, depending on the cream you use.
The secret is to use soy milk and olive oil, which are a wonderful substitute for heavy whipping cream, and the difference is barely noticeable.
Surprisingly, it’s better to use frozen spinach instead of fresh. There are three to four times more nutrients in frozen spinach.
Normally, with other vegetables, you want the fresh option. However, fresh spinach is less nutritious if you don’t eat it almost immediately. In fact, it will lose its vitamins and antioxidants in just four days at room temperature.
Creamed spinach is one of those Thanksgiving side dishes that you can make ahead of time and store in the fridge hours before your Thanksgiving dinner.
Just reheat it when it’s time for your feast. If you like food styling, you can top this side dish with diced roasted carrots to add a color contrast to the recipe.
4. Roasted Cauliflower
This Thanksgiving, if you’re looking for a nutritious side dish that you haven’t tried before, you should consider roasted cauliflower.
If you want to combine two vegetables and o try a completely new recipe, roasted cauliflower pairs perfectly with roasted squash. Drizzling olive oil on the cauliflower before roasting is a sure way to win over any vegetarian in your family.
Roasting is a much better alternative to boiling. Dry cooking will retain more nutrients; boiling will strip the nutrients from the vegetable and transfer them to the boiling water.
Cauliflower is very good for the eyes. Scientific studies have proved it can even reduce the chance of cataracts.
Instead of cream cheese, which is commonly asked for in the recipe, you could add a small amount of parmesan cheese or goat cheese. They’re both low-fat cheeses and are a healthy alternative.
This Thanksgiving, try adding roasted vegetables to your menu. They might even become one of your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes for years to come.
5. Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without potatoes.
Did you know sweet potatoes are incredibly high in vitamin A? While they are comparable with white potatoes in protein and calories, they are significantly higher in vitamins. This is reason enough to dedicate at least one dish to scrumptious sweet potatoes.
If you decide to make roasted sweet potatoes or sweet potato casserole, leave the peel on; it’s the most nutritious part of the potato.
Regardless of which recipe you use, add collard greens to build more flavor and color. It will make your presentation and food styling look fancy.
This is an excellent Thanksgiving side dish that has only healthy ingredients in the recipe. You do not have to add or substitute anything.
It’s such a healthy side dish that if you want to be a little naughty, you can add sour cream, or roast the sweet potatoes in brown butter, and enjoy them while drinking a glass of cold apple cider.
6. Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean Casserole is a staple dish for any Thanksgiving feast.
The green bean casserole recipe you decide to use will be either healthy or unhealthy depending on how it’s prepared.
Start by making sure you use fresh green beans as they are healthier than the canned variety.
You can make a few changes to the ingredients to make this Thanksgiving vegetable side dish more calorie friendly for you and your family.
An easy inclusion is mushrooms. They are full of riboflavin and other B vitamins that help promote a healthy cardiovascular system.
Instead of French fried onions, you can use caramelized onions. If you want crunch, you can use frizzled leeks – also a great alternative.
The less processed the food, the healthier your green bean casserole will be.
Most recipes call for canned condensed cream of mushroom soup, but you can easily make it at home. Just use less butter and skim milk instead of cream.
Once it’s ready to serve, with a little food styling you will have a visually appealing green beans side dish that tastes delicious and looks good.
7. Baked Butternut Squash
One of my family’s favorite recipes for Thanksgiving is baked butternut squash.
It has very dense fruit, so it will provide more servings for its size.
The flavor is a lot like sweet potatoes or butterscotch. It pairs very well with ground turkey and will add a beautiful orange color to your Thanksgiving table.
You can also mix root vegetables, like carrots or brussels sprouts, with your roasted butternut squash; this will give you a satisfying crunch with every bite.
Another simple addition to the recipe is balsamic vinegar, which will create a distinctive flavor that’s very pleasurable to the palate.
If you’re feeling generous, you can add a drizzle of butter, but I would recommend olive oil as a healthier choice.
This holiday side can be included in many other dishes like green bean casserole if you don’t want to eat butternut squash by itself.
You can use roasted squash to complement other dishes for prop styling too. Nothing says Thanksgiving more than a splash of orange on your Thanksgiving table.
8. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are one of the most classic Thanksgiving side dishes you can serve.
They can also be unhealthy, depending on how they’re prepared.
Many recipes call for a lot of butter. Although it’s ok to use butter, make sure it’s in limited quantities since it’s so high in calories and saturated fats.
Olive oil is the ideal substitute for butter. The mashed potatoes will be lighter overall but have the same creamy flavor as their unhealthy counterpart.
Using Yukon gold potatoes to make mashed potatoes is another crafty way to capture a buttery texture without the butter. This recipe is far healthier and tastes better, in my opinion, than white mashed potatoes with butter.
Try adding roasted garlic or diced green onion for prop styling and piquancy.
To capture the delectable flavor in mashed potatoes, make sure you boil the potatoes with their skins on. It helps to enhance the taste of whatever recipe you choose.
9. Cranberry Chutney
There are many toppings for turkey, but cranberry chutney is arguably the best.
Did you know cranberries are considered a superfood? They’re incredibly high in antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of certain cancers and even lower blood pressure.
Of our nine recipes, this is the least healthy because of its sugar content.
It isn’t necessary to follow the recipe to a tee.
You can use Stevia as a sugar substitute; it’s a much healthier alternative, but it is not cheap. You could also use brown sugar, but cut the amount stated in the recipe by half.
Regardless of which recipe or side dish you decide to use this Thanksgiving, any of the 9 dishes listed on this page are perfect choices for a healthy Thanksgiving.
Pick a few of our Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes and experiment this year. We know your family will be more than satisfied.