Healthy Cook

Tasty Options for a Healthier Thanksgiving 

When we think of Turkey Day, we visualize a meal that is so large that we can’t believe all our choices will fit on our plates — and when dinner is finished we almost can’t get up from the table.

We think of a time when extended families gather at large, formal dining room tables, with the kids seated at card tables nearby. Of course, good behavior is expected. The host would prepare the bird, and aunts would bring side dishes and desserts, like pie hidden under a pile of whipped cream.

Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be about quantity, and it doesn’t have to be unhealthy. We can create a delicious meal that we can still be proud to serve family and friends. The trick is to cut back on calories and fats and replace them with flavorings. For example, herbs like thyme, sage, parsley, and rosemary can make the turkey tastier. Even onion, apples, celery, fennel, ginger, or basting with beer can provide flavors that enhance the turkey. You can put the flavorings in the cavity instead of bread stuffing. Avoiding all that butter in mashed potatoes and the stuffing helps keep the dinner healthier.

As for dessert, pumpkin pie reigns as the healthiest choice, as long as you don’t overload it with whipped cream. It is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and is lower in calories, according to

So in looking for a healthy Thanksgiving Dinner, let’s start with the star of the show — the turkey.

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
(Adapted from

Turkey breast, bone-in, about 6 pounds
Olive oil, 1-3/4 tablespoons
Lemon juice, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed
Thyme, sage, and rosemary leaves, 1 tablespoon each fresh chopped
Garlic, 3 cloves minced
Dry mustard, 1 teaspoon
White wine, 1-1/2 cup dry
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil, making a paste. Loosen the skin gently from the turkey breast and spread half the paste directly on the meat and the rest evenly on the skin. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and pour the wine into the bottom of the pan. Roast the bird for about 2 hours in an oven preheated to 325F, until the skin is golden brown and a meat thermometer registers 165F in the thickest part of the breast. You can cover the turkey with foil if the skin is getting too brown before the meat is done. Cover after cooking is completed and allow the turkey to rest for about 15 minutes at room temperature. Then slice and serve, pouring pan juices over the meat.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
(Adapted from Mayo Clinic recipe)

Cauliflower, 1 head
Leek, white only, cut into 4 pieces
Garlic, 1 clove
Butter, 1 teaspoon
Olive oil, 2 teaspoons
Salt and pepper to taste

First, break up the cauliflower head and steam the pieces with garlic and leeks in a saucepan for about 25 minutes, until tender. Then puree small portions in a food processor or blender to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Stir in butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. The benefit is lower carbs and fewer calories. If you really love potatoes, you can do half and half with cauliflower. 

Apple Salad with Figs and Almonds
(Adapted from Mayo Clinic recipe)

Red apples, 4 cups cored and diced
Figs, 1 cup dried, chopped
Celery diced, 2 cups
Carrots, 1 cup peeled and grated
Slivered almonds, 2-1/2 tablespoons
Lemon yogurt, 1/2 cup, can be fat-free

Combine apples, figs, carrots, and celery, add yogurt and mix thoroughly. Top with slivered almonds

Pumpkin Pie
(Adapted from

Premade pie crust of choice
Pumpkin, 1 15-oz can
Sweetened condensed milk, 1 14-oz can
Eggs, 2
Ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon each
Salt, 1/4 teaspoon

Mix pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, salt, and spices. Pour into ready-made crust and bake for 15 minutes in the oven preheated to 425F, then drop the oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 35 minutes. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool prior to serving.

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