The holiday season is a wonderful time for gratitude and family bonding. But, inevitably, most of us end up overindulging–and, often, regretting our choices.
If you’re being mindful of your well-being this year, our hand-picked selection of healthy Thanksgiving sides is here to help. Serving these dishes can reduce your calorie, fat, and sodium intake without compromising on flavor.
But before diving into these delicious recipes, what should your Thanksgiving menu include, and how much food should you prepare?
What should I cook for Thanksgiving?
Part of the beauty of Thanksgiving is you can mix and match your favorite menu items. You can include everything from traditional holiday fare to uniquely customized favorites.
Here’s a basic guide to planning your Thanksgiving menu:
- Appetizers. Start with a variety of hors d’oeuvres like homemade cheese balls, stuffed mushrooms, or fresh vegetables with a festive dip.
- Main course. The most popular Thanksgiving main course is, of course, turkey. But you could also opt for ham or even roast beef.
- Side dishes. Include a balance of classic sides like stuffing, potatoes, and/or other starchy vegetables like winter squash, as well as other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or green beans.
- Desserts. No holiday feast is complete without dessert. Consider serving a couple of options, such as classics like pumpkin and/or sweet potato pie, or other treats like apple crisp or pumpkin cheesecake.
What are the most popular side dishes for Thanksgiving?
Popular Thanksgiving side dishes often reflect local tastes, but certain favorites are universally loved. Here’s a rundown of the top 5:
- Mashed potatoes. These may be the most well-loved Thanksgiving side.
- Stuffing. Made in numerous different ways, this savory delight perfectly complements your meaty main course.
- Bread. Whether it’s rolls, cornbread, or other varieties, bread is a classic choice.
- Cranberry sauce. This staple adds a sweet and tart contrast to the rich, savory flavors of the meal.
- Green bean casserole. This dish is a creamy, crunchy fixture at many Thanksgiving tables.
How many side dishes should you have for Thanksgiving?
You can really make Thanksgiving your own, depending on your guest count and any specific dietary needs. But here’s a basic guideline when it comes to how many sides to serve:
- Mashed potatoes and stuffing: Aim for one serving of each for every five guests. If you’re expecting 10 or more people, prepare at least two servings of each.
- Salads: One salad should be enough, unless you’re expecting more than 20 people, in which case you may want to add another.
- Vegetable sides: For gatherings with five or fewer people, one vegetable side dish is typically enough. For parties of 10, consider serving at least two different vegetable dishes. And if you’re expecting 20 or more guests, three vegetable sides would be ideal.
Healthy Thanksgiving sides everyone will love
These recipes aren’t just delicious; they’re thoroughly-tested crowd-pleasers for adults and kids alike. Made with simple, fresh, store-bought ingredients and offering a mix of traditional and unique flavors, they’re easy to prepare, diet-friendly, and sure to be a hit with your guests.
Roasted, crispy Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts can be surprisingly exciting when prepared right.
Utilizing savory herbs, healthy fats from olive oil, and a small amount of cheese, this recipe is a flavorful, healthy choice for your holiday feast. View recipe here.
Coffee-spiced cranberry sauce
Cranberry sauce is a staple for a reason. Its sweet and tart flavors pair beautifully with the savory flavors of turkey and stuffing. But it’s often loaded with sugar and lacking in any distinctive flavor or nutrients.
This year, elevate your cranberry sauce with a special recipe from Chef Michael Kimball of Savory Spice Shop. Infused with coffee and cocoa, it offers a rich, distinctive twist to the classic condiment. While it does contain sugar, the addition of coffee and zest not only enhances its flavor but adds health benefits.
Kimball recommends drizzling it over roasted squash as well as turkey for a vegetarian-friendly option. View recipe here.
Cauliflower, coconut and orange lentil soup
This soup offers a vibrant and flavorful alternative to traditional casseroles, as well as the benefit of extra antioxidants.
Made with fresh vegetables and warming spices like cumin, coriander, and ginger in a creamy coconut milk base, this soup is packed with taste and nourishing ingredients. View recipe here.
Meyer lemon hazelnut mashed potatoes
Adding crushed hazelnuts to a classic mashed potato recipe introduces an appealing contrast of crunchy and creamy textures. Lemon zest also contributes to a fresh and delightful balance of flavors. View recipe here.
Sweet roasted butternut squash
If you’re looking to switch things up from traditional mashed potatoes, consider dicing and roasting butternut squash instead.
Made with just a few simple ingredients and healthy olive oil, this sweet and savory recipe will delight everyone at the table–including the staunchest mashed potato fans. View recipe here.
Healthier green bean casserole
This green bean casserole recipe offers a fresh take on the classic, moving away from the typical cream-of-mushroom base. It starts with a white sauce, consisting of low-sodium beef or chicken stock, as well as bacon and cheese for added flavor.
Opting for fresh green beans instead of canned ones reduces sodium while maintaining a less mushy texture. View recipe here.
Apple sausage stuffing
This update of a holiday staple pairs perfectly with your favorite Thanksgiving main course.
Made with lower-fat turkey sausage and fresh Granny Smith apples, it’s a protein-rich alternative to traditional stuffing. This means it not only tastes great, but also keeps you feeling satisfied for longer. View recipe here.
Vegan stuffing recipe
Don’t want to exclude vegetarians from enjoying stuffing on Thanksgiving? No problem.
This recipe combines traditional bready stuffing with a healthy mix of mushrooms, onions, and kale, creating an antioxidant-rich side everyone will enjoy. View recipe here.
Savory sweet potato casserole recipe
If you’re looking for a departure from your traditional, marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole this year, try this savory version instead.
Made with fresh herbs and a touch of parmesan, this healthy Thanksgiving side is sure to satisfy everyone at your table. View recipe here.
Sweet potato cobbler
If you’re partial to sweet casseroles but still want to switch things up this holiday, try this delicious sweet potato cobbler.
A delightful twist on a classic, this treat–made with buttermilk and a blend of spices–is sure to tantalize your taste buds. View recipe here.
Southern fried corn
Fried corn may be a summer classic, but it can also be a great Thanksgiving side. Bursting with the rich flavors of bacon drippings and garlic, this delectable dish is a unique taste and texture combination, making it a standout choice for any holiday feast. View recipe here.
This selection of healthy Thanksgiving sides offers a variety of flavors and textures that cater to all preferences. Whether you’re keeping an eye on your calorie count or are just eager to explore new options this holiday, these recipes are sure to make your holiday meal memorable. View recipe here.