5 Healthy Thanksgiving Foods to Add to Your Plate

Over the years, Thanksgiving has come to be synonymous with indulging - or overindulging - in our favorite holiday foods. As this day only comes once a year, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a big meal with your family and friends.

When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably think of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and pie. This holiday may have a bad reputation when it comes to your health, but it can actually be the perfect day to eat nutritious foods that also satisfy your cravings.

Many Thanksgiving sides feature corn, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, green beans, turkey, pumpkin, and other nutrient-rich options. 

The key is to be able to differentiate between healthy Thanksgiving foods and unhealthy options posing as nutritious sides. 

Some of the worst Thanksgiving foods to eat are self-evident, but that’s not always the case. First, let’s take a look at some of the less healthy Thanksgiving sides that you should pass on.

Thanksgiving Sides to Pass On

When you’re sitting at the table - even if you’re still stuck at the kid’s table - the Thanksgiving meal will inevitably be passed around. When it’s time to decide whether to scoop or pass the plate, just remember that vegetables and fruit don’t always guarantee healthiness. Some of the worst Thanksgiving foods are unhealthy dishes dressed up as nutritious options. 

Let’s take a look at five Thanksgiving sides to pass on:

1. Green Bean Casserole

It’s easy to feel healthy when adding green bean casserole to your plate, but this is not a healthy Thanksgiving food. In fact, beyond the green beans, there really isn’t anything healthy in this casserole.

Cream of mushroom soup, the little crunchy fried onions, and butter all combine to pack salt and fat into the casserole. This dish is quite popular, so expect to see it this year. However, try to pair it with other veggies if you want to put it on your plate. The best solution, however, is to suggest an alternative dish or pass it on to the next person when it’s placed in your hands.

2. Pecan Pie

Pecans have a number of health benefits, but pecan pie tends to feature a lot of corn syrup, sugar, and calories. The average slice has around 500 calories.

This doesn’t mean you should forego dessert after a tasty Thanksgiving meal. Instead, try to select a dessert that satisfies your sweet tooth while also delivering some nutritional value. Stay tuned - we cover just the dessert in the next section.

3. Boxed Stuffing

Boxed stuffing is the best friend of someone pressed for time when making Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst Thanksgiving foods you can serve in terms of health. 

Most boxed stuffing is very high in sodium, and white bread doesn’t have much to offer in regards to nutrition. Thanksgiving dinner already tends to be high in sodium, so it’s best to avoid boxed stuffing wherever possible.

4. Sweet Potato Casserole

Typically, sweet potato casserole features mashed sweet potatoes as well as butter, brown sugar, and even pecans or toasted marshmallows. If you go solely by the name, it sounds like a perfectly healthy Thanksgiving food, but anything with marshmallows in it is more of a dessert than a side and could never be considered healthy.

Sweet potatoes themselves are nutritious and wholesome, but all the processed sugar in the casserole ruins that base food. It’s similar to what happens with green bean casserole. 

5. Cranberry Sauce in a Can

Once again, it’s easy to be fooled by this Thanksgiving food option. Cranberries themselves are very healthy, but canned cranberry sauce is packed with sugar in the form of corn syrup.

Even if you love it, you have to face the facts: It’s one of the worst Thanksgiving foods you’ll run into.


FURTHER READING: It never hurts to have a strategy when going to a holiday party. Find out how to navigate the holiday party spread.

Healthy Thanksgiving Sides to Load Up On

Don’t be discouraged by the foods discussed above! There are plenty of healthy Thanksgiving foods to choose from. In fact, even some of the worst Thanksgiving foods can be nutritious with just a few changes.

1. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and are a great and tasty alternative to green bean casserole. Whether you roast or sautée them, brussels sprouts are a great addition to any Thanksgiving meal. 

If you’re worried about how they’ll go over with some of your guests, you can add a little bacon or cheese to make them more palatable.

2. Pumpkin Pie

As long as you don’t bury your pumpkin pie slice under a mountain of whipped cream or ice cream, this is an excellent and mostly healthy Thanksgiving food. Pumpkin pie is a great source of fiber and beta carotene. 

However, be careful when it comes to sugar. Trust pumpkin’s natural sweetness to avoid overdoing it on sugar. You can even use nutmeg or cinnamon to sweeten the pie up without adding calories.

3. Whole Grain Stuffing

Whole grain options will always be a healthier option for stuffing, but many Thanksgiving tables still go with white bread. Not only are whole grain options more flavorful, but they’re full of fiber and nutrients you won’t find in boxed stuffing. 

The fiber found in this option is good for gut health and digestion, which can be beneficial after Thanksgiving dinner.

4. Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are almost always going to be a healthy Thanksgiving side - unless you make the casserole described above. 

Other iterations of the dish offer sweetness, fiber, iron, vitamin C, potassium, and more. Just make sure to watch the amount of added butter and sweeteners. Roasting is a great option for sweet potatoes because it enhances their natural sweetness.

5. Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Taking the time to make fresh cranberry sauce is always worth it. These berries are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids, which may prevent urinary tract infections and types of cancer. Cranberries also have anti-inflammatory properties.

If you’re worried about the tartness of your cranberry sauce, try adding juice instead of additional sugar.

When All Else Fails

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that Thanksgiving is just one day. Keep your meal somewhat healthy by focusing on healthy Thanksgiving foods, but you should be fine if you indulge in some of your favorites.

And, in the event that you do overindulge, there are ways for you to get back on track. For example, Smart Pressed Juice offers a Pineapple Chia Cleanse that combats bloating and helps you keep your cravings under control.

This blend of superfoods contains activated fiber, which helps gently remove waste from unhealthy eating. In other words, it is exactly what you need the day after Thanksgiving. Pineapple Chia Cleanse also supports the healthy elimination of toxins.

So, whether you stick to healthy Thanksgiving foods or end up eating some of the worst Thanksgiving food options at the table, you are properly prepared to maintain your diet.

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