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Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner: Essential Tips and Tricks

Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner: Essential Tips and Tricks

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with loved ones, but it can impact our diets. However, you can have a healthy feast with these secrets for a nutritious and healthy Thanksgiving dinner.

Enjoy whole turkey and homemade stuffing, sides like roasted butternut squash with kale and garlic-parmesan roasted carrots, and ideas for low-sugar pumpkin pie and healthy pecan pie bars.

We also provide tips for maintaining your exercise routine and practicing mindful eating during the holidays. Enjoy Thanksgiving more with delicious and healthy options!

Healthier Alternatives to Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes

If you want to make your Thanksgiving dinner healthier, consider swapping out traditional mashed potatoes for cauliflower mashed “potatoes.” For a gluten-free stuffing, try using kale, cranberries, and thyme instead.

Consider adding shallots, veggies, and crisp bacon to your stuffing for a health and flavor boost.

Don’t forget to add a side of roasted garlic-parsnip puree or mashed butternut squash for the perfect holiday substitute and even more nutritious options to complement the variety of Thanksgiving dinner dishes.

a Thanksgiving meal spread on a large table

Revamping the Classic Turkey Dish

Choosing a high-quality, free-range, organic turkey has several benefits. These birds are healthier as they roam freely and eat a natural diet, unlike factory-farmed birds that are confined and given antibiotics and hormones.

Organic turkeys are also free from harmful pesticides and chemicals. By selecting a free-range and organic turkey, you can have a healthier and more sustainable Thanksgiving meal.

An organic turkey will also improve your gravy and bone broth. Consider roasted chicken or Cornish game hens for smaller groups to add variety to your Thanksgiving dinner.

The Art of Healthier Stuffing

Instead of using packaged mixes, opt for homemade sourdough or artisan bread as the base. Add in high-quality sausage or bacon, mushrooms, garlic, onions, and celery to provide both flavor and essential nutrients.

For those who are gluten-free, try experimenting with stuffing options that include kale and cranberries, which can add an extra boost of antioxidants and vitamins to your meal.

cauliflower mashed potatoes

Rethinking Traditional Mashed Potatoes

Swap traditional mashed potatoes for healthier cauliflower mashed “potatoes” as a delicious side dish. Cauliflower is one of those veggies that’s great to add into your diet if you’re looking to eat healthier.

If you can’t resist traditional mashed potatoes, at least take only a small serving to help manage your blood sugar. To make mashed potatoes calorie friendly, consider using low-fat milk or Greek yogurt in place of heavy cream or butter.

You can also add flavor with herbs like rosemary or garlic instead of relying on salt and butter for taste. Making these small changes can help you enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner while still maintaining a healthy diet.

Lightening Up Gravy

Gravy is one of the biggest calorie culprits on the table. To make a quality gravy, you need drippings from the turkey and bone broth.

Add flour, water, and seasonings. For extra flavor, include mushrooms, onions, or garlic. To make it gluten-free, use arrowroot instead of flour as a thickener.

 roasted butternut squash with kale

Looking for Delicious and Nutritious Thanksgiving Side Dishes?

Try roasting kale alongside butternut squash or making garlic-parmesan roasted carrots. In addition to a nutritious green bean casserole and crispy Brussels Sprouts, roast broccoli is a great option for a side dish that will please most peoples’ palates.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale

Try roasting butternut squash with kale for a healthy and delicious side dish! This combines the sweetness of squash with the earthy flavor of kale, and is packed with protein and nutrients.

Top it off with a homemade dressing and crispy bacon bits for a satisfying crunch. This roasted delicate squash and kale dish is sure to be a hit at your holiday table!

roasted carrots with garlic

Garlic-Parmesan Roasted Carrots

This gluten-free dish is perfect for vegetarians and adds a riot of flavor to any meal. To make it, simply chop up some carrots and toss them in garlic, Parmesan cheese, and a touch of lemon for added freshness.

As they roast, the flavor concentrates and sweetens, making them even more delicious. Roast them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until they are tender and lightly browned. Enjoy!

Healthy Green Bean Casserole

To make this dish, sauté onions and garlic. Add green beans, spinach, and turkey bacon and cook until tender.

Mix in cranberries and thyme for flavor. For the dressing, whisk together Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and honey/maple syrup.

Pour over vegetables and bake until golden brown. Guests won’t even notice it’s a healthier version! Try pairing this dish with a delicious Parmesan Brussels Sprouts Salad recipe for a nutritious Thanksgiving dinner.

air fried brussels sprouts

Air Fryer Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Roast Brussels sprouts in an air fryer for a delicious, crispy side dish. Simply toss the sprouts in olive oil and seasoning, then air fry for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a pop of flavor. Enjoy the vibrant color and health benefits of this tasty dish!

Reinventing the Thanksgiving Dessert Table

For a healthier Thanksgiving, reduce sugar in pie recipes. Make your own butter crusts. (Note: butter isn’t the culprit it’s been made out to be… an article for another day.)

Make your own whipped cream with heavy cream and 1-2 teaspoons of cane sugar whipped with a mixer at high speed. Choose ice cream brands with minimal ingredients like cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla.

pumpkin pie

Lower-Sugar Pumpkin Pie

Traditional pumpkin pie recipes are often loaded with excessive amounts of sugar, which can contribute to health issues. Instead, try using natural sweeteners like maple syrup or coconut sugar.

Or at least cut the cane sugar by 50%. Serve with “real” whipped cream with 1 teaspoon of sugar per cup of heavy cream. Skip the canned “whipped cream” with their long list of ingredients.

Baked Apples with Cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Slice up some fresh apples and sprinkle them with cinnamon. Place the apples on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are tender and lightly browned.

Remove the apples from the oven. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds for an added crunch. Serve this sweet and aromatic dish as a side or dessert and enjoy the health benefits of apples and cinnamon.

pecan pie bars

Healthy Pecan Pie Bars

Swap out conventional ingredients for healthier alternatives like almond flour and coconut sugar in the crust.

Use heart-healthy fats, such as coconut oil or grass-fed butter, instead of unhealthy options like margarine, shortening, or seed oils. Cut the sugars by 50%. Nutrient-dense pecans add healthy fats and antioxidants.

Provide a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner, Even for Guests on Special Diets

Add a variety of fruits and vegetables to your meals. Enhance the flavor of your dishes by using fresh herbs and spices, like spiced olive oil.

Replace traditional side dishes with healthier options like stuffing made with quinoa. If you have a small crowd, serve a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey.

turkey with sweet potatoes and green beans

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu

Gluten-free guests? No problem! Here are some delicious options for your Thanksgiving menu:

  • Roasted sweet potato wedges
  • Quinoa stuffing
  • Vegan green bean casserole
  • Pumpkin pie with an almond flour crust (or skip the crust entirely)

By offering these alternatives, all of your guests can enjoy a flavorful holiday meal without any dietary mishaps.

Low-Carb Thanksgiving Menu

Looking to make your Thanksgiving dinner low carb? Here are some easy substitutions that will allow you to savor delicious food without compromising your healthy eating goals:

  • Use cauliflower rice instead of regular rice for stuffing or casseroles
  • Opt for a cheese platter instead of carb-heavy appetizers like bread or crackers
  • Make a low carb pumpkin pie using a nut crust and less sugar
three serving dishes, one with green beans, one with sweet potatoes, and one with cauliflower

Paleo Thanksgiving Menu

Tips to make your Thanksgiving dinner paleo-friendly:

  • Swap out mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
  • Use almond flour or coconut flour instead of regular flour for baked goods.
  • Replace traditional stuffing with a paleo-friendly stuffing made with almond flour or vegetables.
  • Use herbs and spices to add flavor.
  • Choose grass-fed and organic meats for your main dish.
  • Serve fresh, seasonal vegetables as a side dish.
  • Use natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar.
  • Incorporate nuts and seeds for added texture and nutrition.

Tips for a Balanced Thanksgiving Plate

For a well-balanced Thanksgiving dinner, use high-quality ingredients and include a variety of vegetables. Cooking from scratch lets you control added sugars and unhealthy fats.

Recommended dishes include roasted sweet potatoes, fresh green bean casserole, and homemade sugar-free cranberry sauce. Add a salad with a vinaigrette dressing or a dollop of sour cream for extra nutrition without compromising taste.

family visiting around the Thanksgiving table

Portion Control During Thanksgiving

To control portion sizes, use smaller plates and bowls. Practice mindful eating by savoring each bite and listening to your body’s hunger cues.

Fill your plate with veggies first, then add smaller portions of indulgent dishes. Limit high-calorie appetizers and consider sharing desserts or serving smaller portions.

Including a Variety of Colors on Your Plate

A colorful plate offers a variety of essential nutrients and antioxidants that boost your immune system. Adding holiday spreads like cranberry sauce, carrots, and pomegranate seeds add flavor and nutrition, as well as a pop of color.

Eating in-season varieties like roasted acorn squash provides different flavors and textures. Whole roasted cabbage topped with parmesan cheese is a delicious side dish that contributes to a healthy Thanksgiving meal.

pitcher of water with lemon and mint

The Importance of Staying Hydrated

Stay hydrated during Thanksgiving by drinking infused water with lemon, cucumber, or mint. Limit alcohol consumption to avoid dehydration.

Enjoy herbal teas like chamomile or green tea for hydration and relaxation. Include hydrating foods such as cucumbers and watermelon in your holiday menu.

Mindful Eating Strategies

Fully appreciate each bite, savoring the flavors and textures. Have meaningful conversations while chewing slowly to aid digestion. Listen to hunger cues and eat until comfortably satisfied.

Notice the flavors, aromas, and textures of each dish. Take breaks to fully enjoy the experience. Let holiday flavors delight your taste buds. Pause during the meal to assess satisfaction, trusting your body’s natural signals throughout the holiday season.

family holding hands in prayer around the table

Gratitude at the Dinner Table

During Thanksgiving dinner, take a moment to express gratitude for the food, people, and shared moments.

Reflect on the blessings in your life before eating and share what you’re thankful for with your eating companions. Embrace gratitude beyond the dinner table and spread thankfulness throughout the season.

Exercise During the Holiday Season

Stay active during the holidays by incorporating movement into your Thanksgiving day. Take a post-meal stroll, play outdoor games, or schedule family activities.

Kickstart your metabolism with a morning walk or jog. Keep everyone moving with touch football or tag. View exercise as an opportunity to connect with loved ones and prioritize self-care.

older man playing ball with a child outdoors in the fall

Waiting Between the Main Course and Dessert

It is recommended to wait at least two hours before consuming dessert after a meal. This pause can give your stomach enough time to process the food you’ve already eaten, making it easier to digest the sweet treats later on.

Additionally, spacing out your meals can help regulate blood sugar levels, prevent overeating, and promote overall digestive health.

Can You Enjoy a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner?

Yes, it is quite possible to enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving dinner. By watching portion sizes, emphasizing proteins and vegetables, making smart low-sugar dessert choices, and staying active, you can still have a delicious feast while taking care of your health.


You can enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving dinner without sacrificing taste and tradition.

Make small adjustments to classic dishes, incorporate nutritious alternatives, practice portion control, and include a variety of colors on your plate.

Stay hydrated and practice mindfulness while savoring each bite. Express gratitude for the meal and company. Maintain your exercise routine by incorporating movement into your day or going for post-dinner walks.

With these strategies, you can fully enjoy Thanksgiving while prioritizing your health and well-being!









Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner: Essential Tips and Tricks

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