Sugary sweet potatoes. Creamed vegetables. Deep fried meats. Heavy desserts. Thanksgiving dinner is a health-conscious person’s nightmare. But if you’re the host, you don’t have to give into traditional temptations and prepare the expected. Instead, you can offer a number of different choices in healthy sides to help you and your guests eat well and stay healthy this Thanksgiving.
Homemade, Home Picked – and Quick!
Fresh, healthy, and easy are some of the best qualities in a recipe when one is preparing a dozen different dishes – or more – for a single meal.
- Fruit plate. Not only a healthy alternative to the usual fruit and sugar sides, but a bright and beautiful addition to the table as well. Use fall fruits like apples and pears, pick a color theme, or mix and match with a rainbow assortment of fruits of all kinds.
- Spinach salad. Instead of a run-of-the-mill lettuce salad, opt instead for the richer green and healthier version with a fresh spinach base. Top with nuts, dried cranberries, and other fall flavors and then pair with a light vinaigrette on the side.
- Raw veggies. Like the fruit option, raw carrots, celery, broccoli, and other vegetables can be chopped and arranged into a bright and beautiful plate. Augment with light dressings and dips for added flavor.
- Recipes on grocery store sites. Often the hard part of cooking is finding obscure ingredients or driving to multiple stores for a single recipe, but you can simplify the process by checking out grocery store sites that offer recipes. They almost never include ingredients that they don’t supply and many will group items for certain recipes near recipe cards in the store.
If you’re not interested in chopping your way to a healthy Thanksgiving dinner, you can buy pre-made options for the table at local delis and restaurants and no one will be the wiser. Here are a few options:
- Your favorite restaurant. Does a local Italian place make an incredible anti-pasta salad? Is there a local salad bar that always has unique and fresh ingredients? Make a phone call and ask if they have any catering options you can take advantage of or pick an item off the menu that will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and get a few orders to go on Monday or Tuesday.
- Grocery store deli. Whole Foods, Safeway, and local delis offer a wide range of healthy options. If you don’t like what you see in the window, ask them about making specialty items and ordering large portions in advance for pick-up.
- Freezer section of the grocery store. Trader Joe’s and other regional stores offer a special offering of Thanksgiving themed sides in their freezer and refrigerator sections. Take a close look at the ingredients list and compare fat content and calories. Remember to double check servings as well: it may only be 100 calories per serving but if a serving size is a half-ounce, it may not be a healthy option.
There are a number of restaurants, grocery stores, and specialty food stores that offer pre-made Thanksgiving dinners or your choice of sides. Call and ask for their healthiest options or check the nutritional content on their sites closely before making your choice. Stores vary by region but some options include:
- Whole Foods
- Mimi’s Cafe
Not sure where to start? Make a quick list of the dishes you will definitely be serving and then narrow down the options that will best fill in the blanks, creating a beautiful and healthy Thanksgiving table for your family. Happy, healthy Thanksgiving!