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5 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving Meal Healthy

by Sammy Nickalls

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of many, as it’s an excuse to eat lots of delicious food with those you care about most. What’s not to love?

However, many Thanksgiving dishes can be extremely fattening and packed with some not-so-friendly ingredients that might do wonders for your taste buds, but not for your body.

Many might be tempted to give up their healthy eating habits for the day, but wait! The good news is you can eat healthy food that tastes great without compromising your Thanksgiving flavors. Just follow these tips to make your Thanksgiving meal delicious and nutritious.


5 Tips to a Healthy Thanksgiving

1. Be Traditional and Trust Turkey

Sometimes, people like to be daring with their holiday choices, but save your spontaneity for your sides and keep turkey as your main attraction. Not only is it a slice of lean meat with only 153 calories per serving, but it contains high amounts of tryptophan, protein, selenium, vitamins B3 and B6, and other important nutrients your body needs.

That being said, don’t think you can deep-fry that turkey and still get all those benefits. Stay traditional and use the oven—and remember that just because that delicious stuffing is inside the turkey doesn’t mean it will adopt the turkey’s health benefits!

Related: 5 Reasons to Add Pumpkin Seeds to Your Diet

2. Speaking of Stuffing: Substitute, Substitute, Substitute!

Stuffing is often a favorite side dish, and for this reason, there are lots of ways to make it. Unfortunately, fatty meats like sausage and bacon are often used, and almost all stuffing contains a hefty amount of butter, gravy, and bread. I know my mom uses two massive loaves of heavily processed white bread for her recipe. Sure, it’s delicious, but it’s not too good for your overall health (sorry, Mom).

Related: 5 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Look over your family stuffing recipe and see if you can make any healthy substitutions. Odds are, you can. Consider leaving out those fatty meats, and use more veggies and less bread. Olive oil is preferable to butter. Or, you could come up with an entirely new side to stuff your turkey with—perhaps something involving healthy-yet-delicious autumn veggies or fruits, like butternut squash. Get creative and have some fun with it!

3. Gravy Can Be Sneaky

At Thanksgiving at my house, the most heard phrase at the table is “pass the gravy, please!” Could be because gravy is a wonderful way to add a fall flair to your Thanksgiving dishes—or because it’s just really, really good. People often don’t even consider its fat content because it just seems like a little flavor addition, and if it’s just some savory liquid, how bad could it really be?

Unfortunately, most of the time, gravy is so good because it’s packed with fatty or carb-heavy substances to thicken it, like white flour, cornstarch, or cream, and it’s often extremely high in sodium. That healthy slice of turkey isn’t so healthy when you dump all that stuff all over it.

When making your gravy, try experimenting with vegetable purees, healthier flour like barley or oat flour, or using skim milk. Again, it gives you a chance to be creative!

Related: 5 Healthy Food Substitutions for Fat Loss

4. Potatoes: Keep ‘em Sweet

A common dish at Thanksgiving is mashed potatoes. Though white potatoes have their own benefits, try making dishes involving their brighter and healthier cousin, sweet potatoes. According to The Cleveland Clinic, sweet potatoes provide 400% of your daily requirement of vitamin A. Compared to white potatoes, they also have more vitamin C and more fiber, not to mention considerably fewer calories and total carbs.

If you really want to use white potatoes in your dishes, go for it (it is Thanksgiving, after all!) but try adding more spices to give them flavor before you add all that butter and salt.

Related: Are These 5 “Healthy” Foods Making You Fat?

5. Pies: Mind the Crust and Add Some Fruit

Pies of all kinds are often the star of the table come dessert time, and your Thanksgiving evening might feel a little empty without them. But don’t fear—you can still have your slice of pie without feeling too guilty!

Don’t buy those premade crusts, as they’re often extremely fattening and very processed with hard-to-pronounce, scary-looking ingredients. Make your own with simple, healthier substitutions—or, better yet, go crust-free. Try skipping creamy pies and stick to fruit pies instead, making your own fillings filled with fresh fruit. Again, another excuse to be creative with your desserts!

Related: 5 Fall Foods That Are Good For You

The Takeaway

Many ditch their diets for a day when Thanksgiving rolls around and eat to their heart’s content, which isn’t too bad, since it’s only one day. However, if you are worried about the nutrition of your Thanksgiving meal, there are plenty of ways to give your dishes the delicious flavor everyone longs for come November—with healthy vitamins your body needs and without so many of those excess calories your body doesn’t.

So make some healthy substitutions during your Thanksgiving meal, and give both your taste buds and your body something to really be thankful for.


sammy nickallsSammy Nickalls is the Content Manager at She is an avid health nut and a lover of all things avocado. Follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

Photo by Ruocaled

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