healthy Thanksgiving dinner

How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

As you gather around your dinner table this Thanksgiving, enjoying those tasty traditional dishes, and leave food-guilt behind – most of what you are about to eat is actually good for you!   

Here’s how to have a healthy Thanksgiving dinner:

Sweet potatoes – these babies are a super food, full of beta-carotene, which produces large amounts of Vitamin A for your body!  Vitamin A not only strengthens eyesight, but also your immune system!  The incredible amounts of Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6 and fiber packed into this family favorite also benefit the body. 

The bad news is that adding sugar and too much unhealthy fat to this dish downplays the benefits – so try using olive oil in the dish instead of butter, and enjoy the natural sweet flavor instead of smothering the potatoes in sugar!

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Pumpkin Pie - Full of fiber, beta carotenes, Vitamin C, potassium, and iron, this nutritious treat is almost all good!  Try making it with less sugar and low-fat evaporated milk for a healthier version, and you’ll have a dessert that is good for your heart, immune system, and eyes!

Stuffing – This dish can go either way, as some versions include too much butter and processed carbs.  Try making yours this year with whole wheat bread crumbs, and add in apple bits, nuts or seeds, and extra veggies; like carrots and squash, to add fiber and other nutrients to this traditional favorite! 

With the benefits from the broth and those nutrients combined, your stuffing now has more nutritional punch!

Sides – During the pre-Thanksgiving dinner rush in the grocery store, I noticed there were more shoppers in the fresh foods department than anywhere else in the store. The traditional dinner often includes collard greens, green beans, squash dishes, and brussel sprouts as filling and delicious sides. (I wonder if we eat more fresh veggies as a nation on this holiday more than any other day of the year!) 

What can I say? It does this health coach’s heart good to see this! 

These sides are loaded with multiple vitamins, minerals and fibrous benefits for our bodies – so good for us! Just try and keep the “additions” like butter and salt, to a minimum. Many of these selections can be broiled, sauteed or steamed and just lightly sea-salted or drizzled with a small amount of olive oil.

And let’s not forget the “star of the show” - the big bird!

Turkey – This main event is a lean protein, providing healthy benefit to your body without a lot of fat or harmful additives. It’s high in tryptophan, the nutrient that helps your body produce serotonin, which helps you regulate mood and sleep patterns. It also includes such necessary nutrients as the B Vitamins, folic acid, selenium, and potassium. It’s healthier to enjoy it skinless, and without a lot of additional fats, like butter, so try moisturizing it with olive oil, and “steam cooking” it in a bag in the roaster to keep it tender without the additional oils.

The nutritious benefits you’ll be getting from these family-favorite dishes are worth every bite. 

Enjoy them in moderation (always a good rule of thumb!) and your body will thank you for the added nutrients this delicious dinner brings. 

Have a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving holiday, everyone!

FRESH & Healthy Thanksgiving Day Menu

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of what it means – a time to rest, relax and celebrate our blessings. A time for family and friends, gathering together for fellowship and feasting!  

And this FRESH n' Healthy Thanksgiving Day Menu is the perfect way to do that!

Traditionally, here at the Blanco house, we open our home and Thanksgiving table to others, not always just family or friends, but people God puts in our path to bless! {Shhh, don't tell anyone, but this year, I'm taking the day off and we're going out for dinner with visiting family...but this is my first year ever not cooking! Hubby Juan is joking that he's afraid I may like taking it off too much, too! LOL}

Still baking the homemade Sweet Potato Pie, though! It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving without it!

Coach Bess' Thanksgiving Day Menu

  • Appetizer/Veggie Tray

  • Herb Stuffed Turkey Breast

  • Mashed Cauliflower & Potatoes

  • Green Beans & Sweet Onion Slivers sautéed in olive oil w sliced almonds

  • Greens

  • Coach Bess’s Stuffing with green apples, sausage & pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

  • Cranberry, Apple & Orange Relish

  • Sweet Potato Pie

Prep-Instructions for every delicious Thanksgiving menu item!

FRESH appetizers - veggie tray – I serve raw FRESH veggies with guacamole or dill dip, along with pickles, olives and other FRESH finger foods while I am cooking. This year I’ll put out sweet potato chips and seed crackers with small bowls of hummus & tabouli, to give us a protein boost while we wait!

Herb-Stuffed Turkey Breast – Stuff handfuls of poultry herbs, 2-3 mashed garlic cloves and a few pats of butter under the skin of the turkey breast, then place the skin back over the breast meat. Bake as normal (though using only a turkey breast bakes rapidly compared to a full bird.)

Mashed Cauliflower & Potatoes – Steam a full head of cauliflower florets while boiling 2-3 medium to large diced potatoes. Then mash (either by hand with a masher or in the mixer) potatoes and cauliflower together with 1/3 cup chicken broth, drizzle of olive oil, chopped herbs, 3-4 mashed garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp salt, cracked black pepper.

Green Beans & Sweet Onion Slivers sautéed in olive oil with sliced almonds – Use fresh or frozen green beans, rinse in a colander. Set a large fry pan to medium heat, drizzle olive oil and add the slivers of sweet onion. Saute the onions about 5 minutes, stirring to cook evenly. Add the green beans in with the onions and sauté about 3-4 minutes longer, then sprinkle in a few sliced almonds and remove from heat. (The sweet onions and olive oil create a sweet, savory flavor that permeates the beans!)

Greens - Try making them with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for a tangy take on the flavor as they cook down. Greens actually only need about 10 minutes of cooking on medium heat (add in some diced sweet onion and minced fresh garlic for flavor!) Delish!

Coach Bess’ Stuffing with green apples, sausage & pumpkin seeds (pepitas) – I use whole wheat bread mix for stuffing from the store, (just make sure that there aren’t any additives, like flavoring packets. They contain too much sodium!)

Saute 1/2 pound of ground sausage in a pan, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, saute ½ cup each of diced sweet onion and celery in a pat of butter mixed with olive oil until softened. While those are cooking, peel and dice the apple into fingernail-sized chunks. Once the onion and celery cools, mix it together with the sausage, bread mix, and apples. Add chicken broth to the mixture, 1/2 cup first, then 1/4 cup at a time, to get to the desired texture.

If you prefer a soft, moist-textured stuffing, then bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. If you prefer dry, crunchy texture, serve and eat the stuffing immediately after mixing ingredients together. Either way, add 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to the stuffing immediately before serving.

Cranberry, Apple & Orange Relish – Instead of sugar-laden cans or commercially prepared sauce, try using a food-processer to chop 1 cup fresh cranberries, 1 sweet apple, 1 orange, and ½ cup walnuts together into minced pieces. Mix hot water with 1 package of sugar-free red jello mix (as if you’re making jello!), then pour over the minced fruit and nuts in a bowl and chill in fridge for at least a couple hours, if not overnight. Serve in dessert dishes with a squirt of canned whipped cream (which is LOW sugar!) for a delicious alternative! 

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Sweet Potato Pie – Find the recipe here —- >> Healthy Sweet Potato Pie for a simple and healthy addition to the holiday sweets selection! Rich in nutrients, this pie is hubby Juan’s special request every year.

And my BIG DAY prep timeline (what I make and when!), to save time and hassle

Day before:

• Sweet Potato Pie (taste better cold, and after chilling for a few hours anyway!)

• Cranberry Relish (Can chill for up to a day!)

• All chopping & dicing (Cauliflower for side dish, all FRESH veggies for the relish tray, celery & sweet onions and onion slivers for the green beans)

Thanksgiving Day:

  1. Put the stuffed turkey breast in the oven in enough time to cook, and leave an additional 30 minutes for it to set before slicing and serving!

  2. Begin the process to boil the potatoes, steam the cauliflower about an hour before serving, to leave enough time to prepare, but not too much as these are best served right after beating and adding ingredients!

  3. Leave at LEAST an hour prep time for stuffing (more like 90 minutes if you are baking it)…

  4. Greens and Green Bean dish can be prepared immediately before serving the dinner (about 20 minutes prior, begin preparing them).

I hope this menu has inspired you to be well-prepared and think ahead for your own Thanksgiving Day feast! There are so many ways to keep this meal healthy, fulfilling and special to your family members. Finding simple ways to add veggies and fiber, cut down on cream and sugar and butter yet keep FLAVOR in your memorable dishes is very possible, even on this biggest-eating-days of the year!

Join in the community Thanksgiving fun!

All week long in our free online community we'll be sharing FRESH tips to get us all ready for a healthier Thanksgiving! On Thanksgiving Day we’ll share our family feast pictures and we’d LOVE for you to come by and share your pics too! Stay in touch during this amazing time of year and we’ll sail through strong together!

Cook FRESH this Thanksgiving, and from my family kitchen to yours, I send you blessings of the season!

~ Coach Bess