PSA: I don’t eat like a saint on Thanksgiving, nor do I think you should.
If you’ve been around here, you know I subscribe to the 90/10 rule, which is to say: eat super clean 90% of the time and don’t worry about the other 10%.
It’s a healthy framework to balance your wellness goals with the fact that life happens, and that includes birthdays with cake, celebrations with cocktails, and Thanksgiving with pie.
It’s not that Thanksgiving falls completely in the 10%, where we should just ignore all boundaries and eat alllll the food. That usually ends with us feeling overstuffed, nauseous, and regretful.
Instead, I encourage you to think about Thanksgiving like this: while it won’t be the absolute cleanest eating day, let’s make a few tweaks to lessen the butter/sugar/salt load on our bodies, make sure we eat plenty of greens, and still enjoy the pie at the end.
Sound like a deal?
If you’re with me, let’s get into it.
I’m opening up my recipe list for Thanksgiving because I want you to see how I start with recipes and tweak them to be healthier without sacrificing taste or the spirit of the meal. I want you to see exactly how I prioritize healthier eating while splurging on the things I love.
By the way, you’ll find the collection of recipes on this Pinterest board for easy access and saving.
For appetizers, I like to put out a few finger foods, but focus on keeping it pretty healthy. Since the calories in the foods we graze on add up quickly, I put them away from the kitchen so I know I won’t mindlessly eat as I make the rest of the meal.
Rosemary Roasted Cashews
These are such a hit at every party. But of course they are; Ina knows best! I’ve made these with cashews only or a mixture of cashews and almonds. Either way, they’re amazing.
Add a little less sugar than it calls for and make sure you use unsalted nuts (we use raw cashews to start). From there, I use ½ or ¼ of the salt it calls for. The first time I made them, I added all the salt it calls for and it was overwhelmingly salty.
Apple Slices + Cheese
Years ago, I swapped apple slices for crackers on our normal cheese boards, and they were so good, they’re now a staple. For Thanksgiving, I skip the crackers to keep it fresh and light.
A Turkey Breast
We usually celebrate Thanksgiving with a smaller group and we eat vegetarian in our everyday lives, so we did away with the big turkey years ago. I know it’s basically sacrilegious, so I’ll hide from any judgy glares! Once we started thinking outside the box, we opted for a breast or two instead of the whole bird. It’s way simpler with way less hassle.
I’m not a huge turkey fan, so I usually just have a little bit and go for my favorites, like the Wild Mushroom Stuffing and salad below.
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a perfect turkey topping, and this recipe is a great alternative to the sugary canned versions. Since cranberries are naturally tart, they need some added sweetness, and homemaking it means you can control just how much you add and where it comes from.
I make this recipe pretty close to how it’s written, leaving out some of the sugar if it doesn’t taste like it’s necessary to add more.
Wild Mushroom Stuffing
Everyone’s got a favorite side on Thanksgiving, and this is definitely mine. When I was growing up, we made our stuffing from a box of Kraft Stove Top. It was quick and easy, but has lots of High Fructose Corn Syrup and other bad ingredients. My expectations for stuffing were admittedly low until we made this recipe. It was an instant favorite.
We amend this recipe to add ¼ of the butter it calls for, half the cheese, and 1.5x the fancy mushrooms from our local market.
Sweet Potato Casserole
In my book, Sweet Potato Casserole is another T-giving staple. The funny thing is that most recipes call for adding sugar to the already sweet potatoes. It’s even better without all that sugar and just a touch of butter (rather than many tablespoons) because it lets the flavor of the sweet potatoes shine. The pecans and oats add crunch and texture.
I edit this recipe to use half the butter, don’t add any sugar to the sweet potatoes, and skip the marshmallows on top.
A big salad is always on the menu for our Thanksgiving dinner. It varies from year to year, but almost always has ribboned lacinato kale as the base. Last year, we added fresh oranges, diced apple, roasted delicata squash, pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, and goat cheese. We make the dressing from olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
Some years, I’ll make these quick Green Beans with Figs, Walnuts, and Goat Cheese, too. If you can find good figs around that time of year, this recipe will be a fan favorite.
Regardless, I try to fill half my plate with salad, so I make sure I prioritize the healthy stuff. You’ll thank yourself later if you do the same!
No Thanksgiving is complete without pumpkin pie, right?
I don’t make any edits whatsoever to this classic recipe. It’s dessert; let it be sugary and delicious! We use our stand mixer to make homemade whipped cream for the top, too.
Thanksgiving is a holiday, and on holidays, it’s fun to loosen up, eat out of your normal routine, and celebrate with family and friends. Instead of dreading the way you’re going to feel after dinner and dessert, use these tweaks to lower your sugar, saturated fat, and salt intake while eating plenty of fruits and veggies. Enjoy!