Thanksgiving might be called “turkey day” but everyone knows that the side dishes overshadow the bird whether you roast, brine, grill or deep-fry. On the most indulgent day of the year, Thanksgiving side dishes can be calorie and fat traps but with a little planning (and a lot of green vegetables) you slide through the holiday season without gaining an ounce – or without giving up any of your favorite foods.
The best part about these recipes? They are super simple, so as you finish planning your Thanksgiving menu, fill in any gaps with a healthy veggie-packed side dish to round out your meal.
Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Vinaigrette
Brussels Sprouts get a bad rap, but you need to balance the carbohydrates on your holiday table with a side of greens. Though Brussels sprouts can be baked or roasted, Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Vinaigrette will free up your oven for more important things – like the roasted pumpkin seeds you’ll snack on while dinner is cooking.
Add a little bit of culture to your Thanksgiving meal this year with a socca, a flat cake that hails from southeastern France. Its primary ingredients are chickpea flour and olive oil and while they can be prepared sweet or savory, I like the vegan version of pumpkin socca with cashew cream. (Photo Credit: Heather Crosby)
Green Beans with Balsamic Roasted Shallots
Contrary to popular belief, you can have an amazing meal without a boatload of butter. You can have green beans with balsamic roasted shallots, lightly blanched green beans topped with sweet, roasted shallots simmered in a light, syrupy mixture of balsamic vinegar and reduced chicken broth. Not only will you enjoy the dish, but it might keep you from slipping into a food coma during a post-dinner football game. (Photo Credit: Dara Michalski)
Apple Pecan Stuffed Squash
If you have a vegetarian at the table this year and are looking for a substantial side dish that can stand up to turkey, consider stuffing a roasted acorn squash with some of the season’s best bounty: apples and pecans. With a touch of apple cider and perhaps a freshly grated cinnamon garnish, the turkey will seem like an afterthought.
Spicy Pumpkin Butter
Instead of slathering your biscuits or dinner rolls with butter this year, whip up a batch of pumpkin butter to top your favorite bread. Pumpkin is packed with fiber and Vitamin A so not only does it taste great, but it’s great for you, with fewer calories than butter and no saturated fat.
Baked Artichoke Hearts Au Gratin with Green Onion, Parmesan and Romano
If you love warm, cheesy, comforting dishes but are not-so-in-love with the calories that come with them, there is an easy way to swap calories and carbohydrates from your favorite cheesy potatoes – ditch the potatoes. Baked artichoke hearts with green onion, Parmesan and Romano have a ton of flavor and of course, while they still aren’t exactly health food due to the cheese, it is a holiday after all.
Cauliflower Apple Puree with Chevre
If you promised your skinny jeans that you’d avoid the mashed potatoes this year, make a cauliflower apple puree instead. This one has plenty of everyone’s favorite white, cruciferous vegetable and just enough chevre to add a creamy texture that pairs well with tart apple.
If you’re looking for a cold dish to complement the rich comfort food you’re serving, don’t rule out leafy greens. Toss iron-rich spinach, juicy pears and tangy blue cheese with spiced pecans for a harvest salad that is just as beautiful as it is delicious – and that might be making an appearance on my dinner table, even before the big day. (Photo Credit: Denise Woodward)
You can have your sausage stuffing this Thanksgiving, and eat it too. Made with simple ingredients and herbs, you can use a hearty loaf of whole wheat bread for added texture, flavor – and fiber.
Some of you probably have carrot recipes in your Thanksgiving rotation that have gobs of butter and brown sugar. And I don’t blame you for that. But to keep things on the lighter side, a simple recipe for roasted carrots will go a long way towards pleasing your guests. Roasting brings out the carrots’ natural sweetness so you won’t need to add fat or calories.
Written by Maris Callahan. Maris Callahan is the author of In Good Taste and as an avid self-taught home cook, is widely knowledgeable about all things culinary. She is especially passionate about helping new cooks learn how to prepare healthy, delicious meals and snacks, even when life is busy.
She believes in Ghirardelli chocolate, farmer’s markets and cooking from scratch when possible. When she is not in the kitchen working on her next recipe, Maris works as a marketing professional at an agency in Chicago and in her spare time, contributes to several websites including SheKnows.com and Diets in Review.