Healthier Ways to Cook Thanksgiving Favorites

By Haley Bass | 11/21/2016

Step away from the Tofurkey.

You don’t have to sacrifice your Thanksgiving favorites to be healthy. Instead of replacing pie with apple slices and tossing the turkey for tofu, just modify your cooking methods to get a delicious meal without the guilt.

Here are some simple, healthy ways to cook your Thanksgiving favorites:


If you’re celebrating with a smaller group this year, opt for turkey breast, which is lower in calories, instead of the whole bird. If you need to buy a whole turkey, make sure it’s not a “self-basting” bird. It might make cooking a bit easier, but it often contains added fat and oil.

When cooking your turkey, stuff it with something more substantial than breading. Use onions, apples, and sprigs of fresh herbs to get flavorful meat without the unnecessary calories. Spray your turkey with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper. Avoid the deep fryer at all costs – roast or smoke the turkey instead.


Make the focus of your stuffing the veggies rather than the bread. Add more onions and celery, and try adding fruits like cranberries or apples. We know, it’s not stuffing without the bread, so opt for 100% whole wheat instead of white bread to make it healthier.

Mashed Potatoes

If you want to go really healthy, you can try a mashed cauliflower recipe. But if you aren’t ready to give up your potatoes, there are some other modifications you can make. The butter and cream that give you that delicious mashed potato creaminess are also what adds all those unwanted calories. Instead, use the cooking water when you boil the potatoes – the starchy water will give the potatoes a creamier texture than plain water.

If that’s too much of a modification, you can use turkey or chicken broth, evaporated skim milk, or Greek yogurt to make your potatoes creamy. Instead of butter, stir in roasted garlic and herbs to enhance the flavor. And you can always sneak in a few pureed cauliflower florets for a nutritional boost.

Green Bean Casserole

Green beans are a healthy side dish, right? But smothering them in cream of mushroom soup and topping them with fried onion rings takes away that status. Swap the cream soup for chunks of potatoes and the onion rings for almonds, and you have a hearty, healthy side.

Candied Yams

Another potentially healthy dish that we ruin with fatty additions. Yams are naturally sweet, so the butter and marshmallows are unnecessary. Cut those out, use a little bit of apple juice to sweeten your yams, and top it off with some yummy, heart disease-fighting cinnamon.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin is great for you! It’s full of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. Most of the fat in pumpkin pie comes from the crust. Try a reduced-fat graham cracker crust, or even a crust-free recipe. And if you must top off your slice with whipped cream, don’t use more than a tablespoon.