Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

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When you think forward to your upcoming Thanksgiving feast, do you know what you’ll be eating? I bet you can predict every dish on the table: there’s going to be turkey, mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy, mountains of stuffing, all chased down by a delicious pumpkin pie. These foods come together to create a mind-blowingly delicious and, unfortunately, super fattening meal.

Delicious doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, though. By making a few swaps and substitutions, your Thanksgiving meal can be just as yummy with way fewer calories. You can cut the fat, the sugar and the nasty day-after-binge bloating. Here are a few alternatives to your beloved Thanksgiving sides:

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a classic Thanksgiving necessity. Unfortunately, traditional mashed potato recipes call for lots of butter and thick, fattening milk. And as mind-blowing as some particularly buttery renditions are (as much as the foodie in me adores this recipe, I’m looking at you, FoodWishes), it comes at a pretty hefty price. One serving of old-fashioned mashed potato goodness, for example, consists of about half a pound potatoes, a tablespoon of butter, and a quarter cup whole milk. None of these ingredients offer much in the name of health; they do offer plenty of starch, calories and fat, though.

This Thanksgiving, swap your old recipe for healthier garlic mashed potatoes. Or, if you like rosemary and cloves, this recipe for healthy mashed potatoes may be better suited for you. Both of these alternatives cut down butter and whole milk, but deliver more flavor through healthy, natural ingredients.

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If you’re not married to the idea of mashed potatoes, you should try roasted potatoes and vegetables. These will cut down the fat, as you can totally eliminate butter and milk, but they still include potatoes (yum!). Plus, you’ll get extra nutrients from the other veggies.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Some of us have grown to expect another potato dish at the dinner table: sweet potato casserole. Unfortunately, that sweet and starchy side you crave clocks in at a whopping 460 calories per serving, and who’s actually thinking about sticking to reasonable serving sizes on Turkey Day?

There are many variations that claim to be “lighter,” but my favorite is this version by Eating Well that brings it down to just 242 calories per serving by decreasing the potato and butter content, using a healthier nut-based topping, and opting for honey, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Green Beans

It’s a veggie side, so you’d think it’d be fine as-is, but a classic side of green beans requires two primary ingredients: green beans and heaps of butter. Green beans can be absolutely delicious even without all that butter, however, and there are loads of different recipes you can experiment with. This recipe, Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Lemon, calls for olive oil rather than butter, as does this recipe for roasted Parmesan green beans. Olive oil still has a decent number of calories, but it’s not loaded with saturated fat like butter. Instead, olive oil consists of much healthier monounsaturated fats.

Sweet Corn

Creamed corn brings both sweetness and autumn flare, unlike almost any other side. However, classic recipes can (and do) include things like: heavy cream, butter, sugar and even bacon grease. Ohhh man. Thankfully, they can be swapped for healthier ingredients that still offer divine flavor. Try this low-fat creamed corn recipe with low-fat milk and no butter. This recipe calls for a pinch of nutmeg, a perfect example of how you can get creative with these healthy recipes. Coconut creamed corn will add tropical zest to your meal, but won’t add buttery fat.

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Not interested in creamed corn? Try a healthy corn casserole instead. You can whip up your dish with egg whites, fat free Greek yogurt and light butter. All of these healthier options will make your gut happy.


Stuffing is probably my favorite dish on the holiday dinner table, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But I always regret heaping it on my plate when I remember that it is mostly bread held together with a generous amount of butter. No matter which way you slice it, a super bready side is never going to be totally healthy, but Eating Well has a few recipes that take a stab at it. The closest to your traditional stuffing is their Pear, Prosciutto and Hazelnut Stuffing which has all the luxuriousness of stuffing with olive oil instead of butter. Break from the norm with a bulgar and dried cranberry pilaf or turkey sausage and apple stuffing.

By making these minor substitutions and changes, you can cut the fat at your feast. If you’re looking for other sides, a quick search should turn up lots of options. Remember: seek recipes that call for less butter, sugar and whole milk. Happy Thanksgiving!

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