5 Delicious and Healthy Thanksgiving Holiday Foods

Healthy Thanksgiving Holiday Foods

When you think of Thanksgiving, visions of pecan pie and buttery mashed potatoes may come to mind. Yes, those are tasty, but there are healthier options you can add to your holiday plate and still enjoy the holiday to its fullest and with a full tummy.  Here are five examples of “better for you” Thanksgiving holiday foods:


What would Thanksgiving be without it? Turkey is a lean protein, high in iron and zinc. It’s also a good source of selenium, niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, taurine, and tryptophan. Protein-rich foods like turkey can help you feel fuller longer than other foods, so they’re an excellent choice if you’re trying to lose weight. Protein also helps keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day, which can prevent sudden spikes in energy followed by dips that leave you feeling tired and hungry again in a few hours.

Choose white meat turkey over dark meat if you’re minding your waistline. Darker meat is higher in fat and calories than white meat.  However, it is also a good source of iron and zinc. White turkey meat comes from the breast and wings, while dark turkey meat comes from the legs and thighs. Many people prefer the taste of white meat to dark meat too.

Sweet potatoes

What makes sweet potatoes so special?  They have a rich, velvety texture. Despite their decadent taste, sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients and an excellent source of beta-carotene and potassium. Both are important for heart and blood-vessel health. Beta-carotene helps fight inflammation that damages the inner walls of blood vessels, while potassium is important for blood pressure control and countering the negative effects of a sodium-rich diet. Therefore, both support heart health.

To make sweet potatoes a healthy part of your Thanksgiving celebration:

  • Eat them with the skin on. The skin contains most of the nutrients in sweet potatoes. It’s also high in fiber — one cup contains 3.4 grams — which slows digestion and makes you feel fuller longer.
  • Choose smaller ones over larger ones. The smaller ones tend to be less starchy than larger ones.
  • Substitute sweet potatoes for white potatoes in recipes that call for mashed potatoes or baked potatoes (like shepherd’s pie or potato salad) for more beta-carotene.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable and contain cancer-fighting compounds. This veggie that resembles tiny cabbages is also high in vitamins A and C, folate, and fiber. In fact, 100 grams of cooked Brussels sprouts contain 94% of the daily recommended vitamin C intake. Plus, they supply almost a quarter of the quantity of vitamin A you need daily. However, cooking destroys some of the vitamin C in Brussels sprouts.

The best way to prepare Brussels sprouts is by roasting them with olive oil and salt until they’re browned on the outside but still tender inside. Another way is to sauté them in a pan with garlic and butter. You can also shred Brussels sprouts and add them to a salad. Whatever way you choose to prepare them, adding a little bit of acidity like lemon juice or vinegar can brighten up the flavor. Enjoy! Brussels sprouts are the unsung hero of Thanksgiving.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is a member of the pumpkin family. It has a sweet and nutty flavor that makes it a healthy addition to many recipes. This nutritious and diverse vegetable has diverse health benefits, being excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. A cup of butternut squash contains more than four times the recommended intake of vitamin A and lots of fiber to help reduce the blood sugar rise you get when you eat it.

You can use butternut squash in soups or stews or roast it with other vegetables. You can also steam or bake butternut squash, but steaming is one of the healthiest and hassle-free ways to cook it. Steaming retains all the vegetable’s nutrients without adding extra calories or fat. You can also mash steamed butternut squash or puree it for a tasty and colorful alternative to mashed potatoes.

You can add other ingredients to butternut squash while steaming it, such as herbs or spices to enhance the flavor and nutritional value. Butternut squash is an alternative to sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. if you’re looking for a way to add a little color to your Thanksgiving table, butternut squash is a good option.


One of the few times people add cranberries to the dinner table is on Thanksgiving. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), which are antioxidants that help reduce the risk of heart disease. These compounds prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind). That’s beneficial for heart and blood vessel health. Cranberries are also a rich source of vitamin C and fiber. Why not use them as a garnish for your mashed potatoes or sweet potato casserole? Don’t overdo the cranberries, as they’re high in natural sugar. Yet they’re so jam-packed with health benefits that the pros may outweigh the cons.

Enjoy Your Favorite Thanksgiving Foods in Moderation

Don’t be afraid to eat your favorite Thanksgiving food splurges– if you eat them in moderation. Any food can be healthy if you only eat a little of it. The problem is people eat large portions and eat them too often. So, enjoy some of your favorite Thanksgiving treats, but remember moderation is key. It’s all about finding a balance. These five foods are tasty and packed with nutrition. But don’t forget that you can enjoy them anytime too!


  • “Brussels Sprouts – The Nutrition Source.” hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/brussels-sprouts/.
  • “Brussels Sprouts Nutritional Value And Analysis – NutrientOptimiser.” nutrientoptimiser.com/nutritional-value-brussels-sprouts-raw.
  • “Calories in Butternut Squash – Nutritionix.” nutritionix.com/food/butternut-squash.
  • “Cranberries, dried nutrition facts, and analysis..” nutritionvalue.org/Cranberries%2C_dried_62109100_nutritional_value.html.
  • Howell AB. Cranberry proanthocyanidins and the maintenance of urinary tract health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2002;42(3 Suppl):273-8. doi: 10.1080/10408390209351915. PMID: 12058985.
  • Krueger CG, Reed JD, Feliciano RP, Howell AB. Quantifying and characterizing proanthocyanidins in cranberries in relation to urinary tract health. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2013 May;405(13):4385-95. doi: 10.1007/s00216-013-6750-3. Epub 2013 Feb 9. PMID: 23397091.

Related Articles By Cathe:

Have Your Turkey and Eat It Too: 5 Steps to a Fantastic Thanksgiving (While Sticking to Your Weight Loss Plan)

Thanksgiving Calories

5 Sumptuous Twists on Thanksgiving…That Won’t Crash Your Diet!

Hi, I'm Cathe

I want to help you get in the best shape of your life and stay healthy with my workout videos, DVDs and Free Weekly Newsletter. Here are several ways you can watch and work out to my exercise videos and purchase my fitness products:

Get Your Free Weekly Cathe Friedrich Newsletter

Get free weekly tips on Fitness, Health, Weight Loss and Nutrition delivered directly to your email inbox. Plus get Special Cathe Product Offers and learn about What’s New at Cathe Dot Com.

Enter your email address below to start receiving my free weekly updates. Don’t worry…I guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared and you can easily unsubscribe whenever you like. Our Privacy Policy