Thanksgiving health can be hard to maintain when we plan to feast. The holiday is famous for leaving us in a delightful food coma, but many of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are packed full of nutrients your body needs in winter, too! Here are our top ten traditional side dishes to consider adding to your Thanksgiving feast to round out the nutritional value of your meal:
1. Mushroom-based Gravy
Having a mushroom gravy option can be a delicious alternative to meat gravy for any plant-based people at your gathering, and it packs a nutritional punch with lots of the vitamin D you need to stay healthy and happy over the winter holidays. Mushrooms are great sources of B vitamins and potassium, too.
2. Green beans
Green beans are one of the healthiest dishes at Thanksgiving, and they’re so easy to add into a meal. Just throw them in the oven with some seasoning and a bit of oil, and you will have a delicious seasonal side rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Draining green beans from a can before preparing them is a great way to lower the sodium content.
3. Vary the sweet potato dishes
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotenes, and there are so many Thanksgiving classics you can make with them. You can use them for sweet potato wedges or fries as a side dish, make a baked sweet potato as an appetizer, and of course use them as a relatively healthy dessert. Mix them with some nuts like pecans for a tasty treat that’s also nutrient-rich.
4. Add cruciferous veggies
Cruciferous veggies include broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower—all seasonal in the winter months—and can be made as an easy side dish to sprinkle in some Thanksgiving health. Cook them with some lemon juice, pepper, and any other desired seasoning for a delicious variety of nutrient and fiber-rich foods. All cruciferous veggies lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
5. Pack the veggies into your stuffing
Stuffing recipes tend to be pretty open-ended, but all of them call for some veggies. Try adding as many veggies as possible to your stuffing for variety and flavor. Some produce that goes great with stuffing include celery, carrots, leeks, mushrooms, garlic, onion, cauliflower, green onions, brussels sprouts, apples, raisins and currants.
6. Whole grain stuffing
Stuffing recipes often call for white bread, but there’s no reason not to use whole grain instead. Whole grain bread has a lower glycemic index—which helps to keep blood sugar low—and more nutritional value, since the whole grain is the part of wheat that contains the nutrients.
7. Butternut squash
Butternut squash is one of the healthiest fall vegetables and can be made into many fantastic sides to go with your Thanksgiving health feast. Try butternut squash soup, butternut squash salad, or baked butternut squash for a delicious and fall-friendly side packed with folate, magnesium, potassium, and more nutrients,folate, magnesium, potassium, just to name a few.
8. Squash and caramelized onion
A squash and caramelized onion tart is not as common as some of the other Thanksgiving classics, but it can make a great vegan dish to round out your sides. Caramelized onions taste like a fall classic, and adding squash makes it even healthier and more traditional. Squash and caramelized onion tart is packed with and it’s hearty enough to serve as one of the main items for people who don’t eat meat.
9. Add more cranberries
Cranberry sauce is a delicious delight every Thanksgiving, but cranberries on their own are super healthy and can be added to many dishes. Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, and good sources of vitamin C, vitamin K1, and manganese. Add dried cranberries to winter salads for some sweet flavor, sprinkle some on top of your side dishes for an extra punch, or make cranberry relish to add to sandwiches later on.
10. Winter salad
Making a side salad out of one of the many dark leafy greens in season in salad is one of the best ways to lighten up a heavy Thanksgiving meal. Try starting with kale, mustard greens, bok choy, collard greens, Swiss chard, arugula, or spinach, and layer on delicious seasonal ingredients like squash, cranberries, apples, and nuts. You can also add some turkey to this salad as a leftover, or some mushrooms or goat cheese to make it a bit heartier.