By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Need a healthy Thanksgiving meal planner? You're in luck! This Thanksgiving menu planner is full of healthy Thanksgiving recipes and nutritious Thanksgiving dishes.
The Thanksgiving countdown is here! What to make for Thanksgiving dinner? Here's a healthy Thanksgiving meal planner just for you! No matter who is coming over for the meal, this healthy Thanksgiving meal planner has ideas that'll make everyone's tastebuds happy.
Shopping malls and grocery stores may have started playing Christmas music long before Halloween, but we can't forget about my all-time favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. Every year, I can't wait to gather around one humongous, delicious meal with my family and close friends.
But with only about a week until the big day, it's time to get down to business—including picking out the decór, cleaning up the dining space, and (most importantly!) crafting a menu that will satisfy everyone at the table.
There's a simple way you can feel great this season—and you don't have to skimp on pumpkin pie or miss out on the mashed potatoes and gravy. Ready to hear my top secrets for a healthier Thanksgiving?
Psst....need get-on-track meal ideas for the days after Thanksgiving? Give my mix-and-match easy, healthy meal ideas a once over!
Healthy Recipes for Thanksgiving Dinner
If you're feeling a little lost about entrée options for your picky eaters or are tired of your go-to dessert, don't worry.
I'm sharing my epic healthy Thanksgiving meal planner that's bursting with healthy recipes that are fit for any Thanksgiving meal, plus vegan ideas for your plant-based eaters as well as the cutest appetizer to put together with the kiddos. All in all, you're getting nearly 70 recipes to look to for Turkey Day dinner inspiration. 'Tis the season to be giving!
Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday. Ever since I can remember, my parents, sister, and I have gathered with 30 or so of our closest family friends to have a gigantic family dinner together. This year in particular, I'm especially excited to fly to Florida to be with my family.
Are you as excited about Thanksgiving as I am? I love everything about the day, from spending time with family and friends to traditions (a pre-dinner football game and a post-dinner Scattergories game is big in my family!) to favorite foods.
By the way, many of these ideas will make fantastic cooking projects for kids!
Dietitian Ideas for Healthy Thanksgiving Dishes
Vegetarians? Check. Kids? Check. Dessert fans? Check. In my ultimate Turkey Day recipe list, you'll find dishes created by my dietitian pals that will be loved by everyone, no matter their dietary preferences or tastebuds.
Don't forget to get the whole family involved in the cooking process—you'll not only receive much-needed help, you'll also get extra bonding time with your loved ones.
Whether you pass the turkey or pass on the turkey (like me!), there are many ways to stay healthy and avoid the super-stuffed feeling this week.
Ready to eat a healthy Thanksgiving meal? Hosting a healthy party, or simply a dinner guest? Either way, I've got tips to help you stay at the top of your nutrition game. May you nurture yourself and your loved ones as you find your reasons to celebrate this holiday!
Try these healthy Thanksgiving recipes from my dietitian friends, including tips for healthy side dishes and more.
LIGHTEN UP Mashed Potatoes
“To give mashed potatoes a boost of nutrition, I like to use a combination of half yellow potatoes with skin left on and half sweet potatoes," says Amber Ketchum, MDS, RD, owner of Homemade Nutrition.
"Yellow or Yukon gold potatoes have a thinner skin that mashes very well, so you can keep more of the fiber and nutrients—and the sweet potato adds more fiber, vitamin A, and a pretty hint of orange color to the potatoes." You can also skip the sour cream!
LIGHTEN UP Sweet Potatoes
“Instead of marshmallows or loads of brown sugar, add cinnamon and crushed or diced fresh pineapple to your sweet potatoes," says Heather Mason, MS, RD, nutrition blogger at Nutty Nutrition and Fitness. "You will get a burst of flavor, more vitamin C and antioxidants, and less added sugar."
LIGHTEN UP Meat or Poultry
“Keep your main course lean. Roasted turkey and pork tenderloin are leaner meat choices," says Kristen Smith, RD, founder of 360 Family Nutrition. "Skip the fryer, and flavor your main course with fresh herbs, garlic, onion, or your favorite vinegar."
LIGHTEN UP Pumpkin Pie
“Try making pumpkin pie crustless and individually sized for portion control," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. "My recipe does this and is only 68 calories per serving."
LIGHTEN UP Bundt Cake
Healthy Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes
Since most of us are in a chipper mood during the holiday season, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to get family members to try foods out of their comfort zone, including vegan dishes.
In my article for The Healthy, I rounded up a dozen dietitian-approved vegan sides and mains that will satisfy even your meat-loving uncle. Make sure everyone gets a scoop of the lentil stuffing—it doesn't disappoint!
And while there are lots and lots of yummy sides at Thanksgiving, vegetarians like me often get forgotten about in the protein department.
Protein is what helps fill you up and keep you from noshing and noshing. Here are a few protein-filled vegetarian dishes (including one of mine!) to inspire your holiday menu, via Aaptiv.com. Ready to eat a healthy Thanksgiving meal?
Nutritionist Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving
As much as I love the holiday and the food that comes with it, I’m always looking for ways to not feel like an over-stuffed turkey. My favorite tip is to put out (and eat) lots of veggies before the food comes out.
Last year, my mom and I made a veggie-filled crudité platter in the shape of a turkey. I went to my dietitian colleagues to get their best tips for having a healthy Thanksgiving, too.
1. Pre-Plan Your Plate
“This is a trick I learned when on Weight Watchers about 15 to 20 years ago,” says Elana Natker, MS, RD a dietitian in Washington, DC. “Sometime before Thanksgiving, take a paper plate and draw out what you plan to put on it.
"It doesn't need to be pretty, but approximate how much of the plate you'll give to turkey and stuffing—whatever your favorites are. Make a smaller plate for dessert if you choose. It may not totally prevent overeating, but it helps to go into Thanksgiving with a plan.”
2. Don’t Starve Yourself Beforehand
“Eat regularly,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, author of Total Body Diet for Dummies. “Stick with a regular schedule of eating by not skipping meals or snacks so you are not starving when the Thanksgiving meal comes.”
3. Choose Seasonal Foods
“Don't waste calories on foods you can have anytime, like a white roll with butter and potato chips, when there are seasonal foods, such as eggnog and turkey stuffing, to be had,” says Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of Expect the Best.
4. Keep MyPlate in Mind
“Fill half your plate with fruits and non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of your plate with lean protein, and a quarter of your plate with whole grains and starchy vegetables for a balanced holiday dinner plate,” says Julie Harrington, RD, co-author of The Healing Soup Cookbook. Ideas for non-starchy veggies include green beans, butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, roasted beets, and Brussels sprouts.
5. Build in a Workout
“Be a good guest by getting up and helping to do dishes between courses,” suggests Mandy Enright, RD, creator of the couples’ nutrition blog Nutrition Nuptials. “Some movement will stimulate the digestive system and prevent meals from feeling like a brick in the stomach.”
6. Use the Three-Bite Rule for Dessert
“The first bite is the best, the last is the last, and each bite in between is the same,” says Harris-Pincus. Stick to three, enjoy each one, and then pop a piece of gum or a mint in your mouth to cleanse the palate.”
7. Store Leftovers Smartly
“After the Thanksgiving meal, portion out leftovers into lunch or dinner portions and freeze them to be used when you need a quick ready meal,” suggests Rahaf Al Bochi, RD, a certified diabetes educator in Atlanta.
Amy's Thanksgiving Recipe to Try
Make this recipe: Turkey Veggie Platter!
While you're busy whipping up the main meal from my recipe list, keep the kids occupied with this veggie platter. My holiday snack platter is a fun and veggie-filled way to get your turkey fix this Thanksgiving.
Think outside the box to get everyone involved with cooking and eating healthy! My mom and I make a variation of this veggie turkey every year. It's a fun appetizer that also offers up a great way to get the kids involved with the cooking.
The appetizer-slash-work-of-art spotlights some of my favorite healthy finger foods (ahem, carrots!) land can be put together in less than 30 minutes. Instead of ranch, serve the platter with a bowl of this veggie yogurt dip that's packed with protein and flavor.
Here are more ideas for healthy Thanksgiving recipes, too!
This blog post was updated in August 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- Amber Ketchum, MDS, RD, owner of Homemade Nutrition
- Heather Mason, MS, RD, nutrition blogger at Nutty Nutrition and Fitness
- Kristen Smith, RD, founder of 360 Family Nutrition
- Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club
- Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, co-author of Fertility Foods
- 12 Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes Everyone Will Love, TheHealthy.com
- Elana Natker, MS, RD a dietitian in Washington, DC
- Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, author of Total Body Diet for Dummies
- Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of Expect the Best
- Julie Harrington, RD, co-author of The Healing Soup Cookbook
- Mandy Enright, RD, creator of the couples’ nutrition blog Nutrition Nuptials
- Rahaf Al Bochi, RD, a certified diabetes educator in Atlanta
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I'd love to hear from you! What's your favorite healthy Thanksgiving meal? What else would you add to a healthy Thanksgiving menu?
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