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Healthify Your Thanksgiving Dishes

Healthify Your Thanksgiving Dishes


And just like that, Thanksgiving is upon us. Group chats are alive with plans of potlucks. Home cooks are browsing for recipes and the ingredients they need to buy. Foodies scroll through the ‘Gram and TikTok to get ideas and inspo.

It’s that time of the year when we kick off the holiday feasting. Sometimes it can be stressful if we’re watching what we eat and we see a ginormous amount of food in front of us that may or may not be healthy. But if we make our own meals and have control over the menu, it might not be that bad. Here are popular Thanksgiving dishes with suggestions on how to make them healthier:

Roast Turkey

The star of the show. If you’re going the traditional route and cook it in the oven (as opposed to deep frying) then that’s already a step towards a healthy Thanksgiving. The typical ingredients for a roast turkey seem safe enough, just maybe substitute butter with margarine and watch your salt.

Typical ingredients: Turkey, onion, lemon, herbs, butter, salt, pepper, garlic


  • Substitute butter with margarine.
  • Do not use too much salt (the herbs will help with the flavor) or substitute it with paprika and it will add a nice color to it.
  • If you’re feeling crazy, skip the whole bird and just use turkey breasts.


I will admit I am not a turkey fan, and will only eat it if there’s gravy. I even looked into copying Monica Geller’s “Moist Maker” (extra bread dipped in gravy) for my turkey sandwich. But the point is gravy is a very important sidekick to the star of the show. Unfortunately, it is high in fat unless you make adjustments.

Typical ingredients: Butter, all-purpose flour, broth or bouillon cube, drippings/fat


  • Substitute butter with margarine.
  • Substitute all-purpose flour with tapioca flour.
  • Use either homemade chicken stock, or reduced fat chicken broth, or low sodium chicken broth.
  • Do not use any drippings or fat

Green Bean Casserole

My personal favorite thanks in large part to the crispy fried onions that help elevate the flavor of the casserole. The problem? Crispy fried onions. Try to replace with another crunchy favorite that’s not as sinful: baked potato chips. To make it even healthier, choose a low sodium version.

Typical ingredients: Green beans, crispy fried onions, cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce


  • Use 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup or low sodium cream of mushroom soup.
  • Use reduced fat, low fat or fat free milk. Almond milk and cashew milk are also good alternatives.
  • Substitute the soy sauce with coconut aminos. If you need something that’s easier to find, try low sodium soy sauce.
  • Substitute the fried onions with baked potato chips.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

I was so excited the first time I was about to try this. I, an immigrant, only got to see it on TV shows and movies. Now I was about to taste this traditional American Thanksgiving marshmallow-topped dish. Then I took a spoonful and the first thought that came to mind was “Huh?” I did not know that underneath those marshmallows was a mushy vegetable (no, I did not know its name at the time, and no, I did not know its main ingredient was sweet potato). Anyway, substitute the marshmallows for something healthier (and will not hide those sweet potatoes).

Typical ingredients: Sweet potatoes, brown sugar, butter, marshmallows, eggs, vanilla extract


  • Use reduced fat, low fat or fat free milk. Almond milk and cashew milk are also good alternatives.
  • Substitute brown sugar with honey or pure maple syrup. Click here for the ratio.
  • Substitute butter with margarine.
  • Ditch the marshmallows and top it off with a pecan-oat combo. Click here for the topping’s recipe.

Potatoes Au Gratin

Another favorite of mine. Probably because it sounds and looks fancy. But this creamy side dish is so rich in fat so we need to make it lighter.

Typical ingredients: Potatoes, butter, cheese, milk or heavy cream


  • Use reduced fat, low fat or fat free milk.
  • Use low fat cheese
  • Substitute butter with margarine

The key, of course, is to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends. If you can’t control the menu and/or how the dishes were prepared, just eat everything in moderation. Somebody else brought the gravy to the potluck? Instead of letting your turkey swim in gravy, just drizzle a little bit on top.

Want some more ideas to make your holidays healthier? Click here for our Healthy Holiday Recipes e-book.