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Healthy Thanksgiving Swaps

Thanksgiving is all about spending time in the company of family and good food. It’s also a time when most people overindulge in food and beverages that aren’t so great for them, but you can change that this year! This Thanksgiving, why not swap those not-so-healthy food choices with some healthier options? Our dietitian, Parul, shows you how to make healthy

Appetizers Swaps


Skip the boring iceberg and bring on the rainbow of colors! Use a variety of greens such as spinach or kale, add other vegetables. Add pomegranate seeds and nuts for flavor. Use goat cheese or feta cheese to make it lighter. Skip the high fat dressings and use vinaigrettes.

Dinner Rolls w/ Butter

Use whole grain or multi grain bread.

Corn Bread

Lay out a tray of veggies. Think celery, carrots, peppers, and broccoli—with a light dip or hummus.

Main Course Swaps

Roasted Turkey

Don’t eat the skin. Instead of a high fat high sodium gravy, use other flavorful sauces, such as pesto or homemade sauce made with various herbs or orange zest.

Honeybaked Ham

Ask if there are any low-sodium options, and opt for that instead.

Stovetop Stuffing (cornbread stuffing)

Skip the white bread and make stuffing with wild rice or any other cooked whole grains. Add fruits & vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds to give it a unique flavor.

Mashed Potatoes with Gravy

Opt for roasted red potatoes with olive oil and herbs and garlic instead of mashed potatoes with a lot of butter. You can also try roasted mixed root vegetables, roasted sweet potato fries, or try mashed cauliflower!

Sautéed Green Beans

Provided you don’t use a ton of oil or add too much salt, this common dish should be fine as is. No swaps needed!

Cranberry Sauce

Make a cranberry relish instead that uses just ¼ or 1/3 of the amount of sugar.

Glazed Carrots + Candied Sweet Potato Casserole

Glazed carrots are usually made with melted butter and brown sugar, and candied sweet potato casseroles are typically made with marshmallows and brown sugar.

Instead of glazed carrots or sweet potato casserole that add up a lot of sugar, make a variety of different vegetables that are flavored with herbs, ginger, garlic, etc. You can also try roasted brussel sprouts or curried cauliflower. For yet another option, try flavor mashed sweet potatoes with chives and other herbs.

Homemade Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving

Beverage Swaps

Sparkling Apple Cider

Switch out the juice and high sugar beverages for flavored sparkling water.

Dessert Swaps

The following are the most common types of desserts found on most American tables at Thanksgiving:

  • Apple Pie
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Ice Cream
  • Pecan Pie
  • Sweet Potato Pie

Of the above-mentioned desserts, pumpkin pie is the best option as it is lower in calories and saturated fat. Also, pumpkin is very high in vitamin A and other nutrients. For an even lower-calorie option, make no-crust pumpkin pie.

For other dessert choices, consider making crisps or cobblers. An apple crisp is much healthier than apple pie. You can make it using a whole grain, low sugar granola.

About Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN

Parul is a Clinical Dietitian in Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Cary Hospital. For information related to diet and nutrition, or to speak to one of our licensed, registered dietitians, contact Outpatient Nutrition Services today. Insurance coverage and costs may vary.