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Thanksgiving Solved! 5 Hearty, Healthy Recipes

Classic Thanksgiving dishes are the ultimate in comfort food: They’re warming, hearty, and rich in memories—as well as carbohydrates, bad fats, and sodium. I know it’s important for you to serve these standards and to keep family traditions alive at the holiday table. But, I also know it’s equally important for you to stick to your dietary goals and eat well at every meal.

So, I’ve rounded up five recipes that will satisfy both tradition and nutrition. Make them for a filling and fit feast!

Thanksgiving Appetizer: Perfect Pumpkin Soup

This Very Simple Pumpkin Soup is an ideal kickoff. It uses maple syrup—a natural sweetener I’ve praised before—and it calls for a moderate amount butter of half and half, not heavy cream. What’s more, it’s topped with shiitakes, mushrooms believed to offer cardiovascular and even anti-cancer benefits. Plus, it ensures your spread features pumpkin, since this meal plan eschews pumpkin pie for dessert.

Recipe: Perfect Pumpkin Soup


1 sugar pie pumpkin (about 4 pounds)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon sea salt, divided

5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1 small yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped, plus more for garnish

½ cup half and half

2 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ teaspoon black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Cut the pumpkin in half, then scoop out the seeds and cut each half in half again.

3. Place the pumpkin quarters on a baking sheet, then brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon of salt. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until tender, then remove from the oven.

4. While the pumpkin bakes, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to a pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the shiitakes and cook for 5-7 minutes, until they are browned and starting to crisp. Remove the mushrooms from the pot and set aside.

5. Add the butter to the same pot you cooked the shiitakes in. Once melted, add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent and starting to brown.

6. Scoop the flesh from the pumpkin, leaving the skin behind, and place in a blender along with the onion, garlic, ginger, broth, thyme, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Blend until smooth.

7. Pour the blended mixture back into the pot, then stir in the half and half, maple syrup, and black pepper.

8. Serve with the shiitake mushrooms sprinkled over top of the soup, and garnish with fresh thyme.

Thanksgiving Vegetable Side Dish: Roasted Root Vegetables

Now is the peak season for root vegetables, undeniable health foods. Instead of plain mashed potatoes with fattening cream and butter, opt for this Roasted Root Vegetable recipe, which uses a mixture of unpeeled potato, sweet potato, carrots, and beets; the peels are nutrient powerhouses. Potatoes are high in potassium, and sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and antioxidants (the same goes for brightly hued beets and carrots). A little heart-healthy olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs are all that’s needed to complete this simple, satisfying side.

Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetables

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes


3 carrots, peeled and sliced in half

3 parsnips, peeled and sliced in half

1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large or 2 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread out onto the baking sheets, making sure the vegetables don’t overlap too much.

3. Bake for 45-50 minutes, tossing the vegetables halfway through, until they are tender, and the outsides have started to crisp.

4. Remove the vegetables from the oven, then squeeze the lemon juice over top and add the rosemary and stir to combine. Serve garnished with the rosemary.

Thanksgiving Stuffing Alternative: Quirky Quinoa

Traditional stuffing is pure carbs, and it’s usually made with white bread to boot, which has had most of its nutrients stripped away during production. Try this non-traditional spin using quinoa, a protein-packed whole grain that contains all nine essential amino acids. I like the variation using dried cherries and almonds, both of which bring health benefits to the table. The stuffing works as a standalone dish and can also be used inside your bird just like the classic bread-based version.

Recipe: Quirky Quinoa

Yield: Serves 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes


1 ½ cups tri-color quinoa

2 ¼ cups chicken or vegetable broth

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage, or ½ teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

1/3 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted, plus more for garnish


1. Add the quinoa, broth, and salt to a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all of the broth and is fully cooked through.

2. While the quinoa cooks, add the olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot, celery, and garlic. Cook for about 7 minutes, until the onion and celery have started to brown.

3. Add the cooked quinoa, sage, thyme, orange zest, cherries, and almonds to the skillet and stir everything together to combine.

4. Remove from heat, garnish with additional toasted almonds, and serve.

Thanksgiving Main Dish: Turkey Chili, If You Dare

It’s likely Thanksgiving without a roasted turkey won’t fly with you. If that’s the case, roast it with olive oil, lemon, and fresh herbs, then remove the skin before eating the meat to reduce your fat intake.

But if you dare to break with turkey tradition, try Turkey Chili as a main dish. It’s more a chunky stew and won’t resemble the pumpkin soup in texture, and it’s full of fiber while being low in saturated fat. You can also make it with turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving instead of a carb-heavy sandwich or fat-filled casserole.

Recipe: Turkey Chili

Yield: Serves 6

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ pounds ground turkey

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 ½ cups chicken broth

2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans

1 cup frozen sweet corn

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Lime wedges, for garnish


1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent and starting to brown.

2. Add the turkey to the pot with the onion and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes, breaking up the turkey as it cooks, until it is browned and fully cooked through.

3. Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine with the turkey, then add all of the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

4. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30-45 minutes. Taste and add more salt or other seasonings if needed, then serve with lime wedges.

Healthy Thanksgiving Dessert: Cranberry Cherry Crumble Bars

These crumble bars are easy to make, super festive, and made with whole grains. This recipe is very flexible, so you can use regular, whole wheat, or oat flour to meet your dietary needs. It is also sweetened with coconut sugar, an unrefined sugar that is lower on the glycemic index than traditional sugar.

Recipe: Cranberry Cherry Crumble Bars

Yield: Serves 9

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes


For the cranberry-cherry filling:

1 cup fresh cranberries

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted

¼ cup coconut sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the crust:

1 ½ cups flour (regular, whole wheat, or oat flour all work here!)

1 ½ cups rolled oats

½ cup coconut sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter or coconut oil, at room temperature

1 egg, whisked


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper.

2. Add the cranberries, cherries, coconut sugar, and one tablespoon of water to a small pot over medium heat. Let cook for 7-10 minutes, until the cranberries have burst.

3. Whisk together the cornstarch and two tablespoons of water, then pour it into the cranberry mixture. Let the mixture come to a boil. Once it thickens, remove it from heat.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, coconut sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Then, add the butter or coconut oil and the egg and stir to combine.

5. Press half of the curst mixture into the bottom of the parchment paper-lined pan, then top with the cranberry-cherry filling. Crumble the remaining crust on top of the cherry filling.

6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the crust has browned. Let cool, then slice and serve.

Tip: Even though this meal plan is a healthy one, you still don’t want to overeat to the point of sluggishness and guilt. Remember to Keep it a 5™. Happy Thanksgiving!

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