10 Healthy Side Dishes to Try This Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year, I love spending time with family and enjoying the foods of the season. But, if you are like me and trying to stick to a healthy diet (or Paleo lifestyle), Thanksgiving can be a challenging time. With the extra calories hiding in the fluffy mashed potatoes and rich casseroles, you can effortlessly eat enough calories during your Thanksgiving meal, as you would during a normal day of eating. The New York Times estimates that, “the average American consumes 2,500 – 4,500 calories during their Thanksgiving meal”, considering that the average daily calorie consumption is 2,000-2,400 for women per day, this figure is pretty shocking. If you want to indulge but still stay on track with your diet this Thanksgiving, try making these healthier Paleo-based side dishes in place of their higher calorie traditional forms. These recipes are full of flavor, and it is okay to go back for seconds.

But before we dive in to these delicious and healthy side dishes, let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Amanda Dowd, and I am the Certified Nutritionist and Health Coach behind Revitalized Roots Health Coaching. Some of you may not know me, or why I choose to follow a Paleo diet, so let me give you a little background. Simply put, I have food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, eggs, most grains, and a variety of other foods. The Paleo diet works well for me, because it does not contain many of these common food irritants (with the exception of eggs). In a nutshell, the Paleo diet is made up of meat, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Essentially it leaves out all the highly processed foods, grains, dairy, legumes and alcohol.  I follow this diet about 90% of the time, with the exception of a few skinny margaritas from time to time. The Paleo diet has helped to cure my food-based illnesses like acne, headaches, migraines, brain fog, eczema, digestive issues and leaky gut. It also helps with weight loss and to help cure autoimmune diseases. If you are curious about the Paleo diet (or the Whole30 diet), or if you would like to try these diets with the help of a Certified Nutritionist and Health Coach, let’s connect! Send me an email at Amanda@revitalizedroots.com or follow me on Facebook at Revitalized Roots Health Coaching.

Of course, that is after you read my blog on 10 Healthy Side Dishes to Try This Thanksgiving.

Brussels Sprouts Prosciutto and Cranberry Salad

Courtesy of revitalizedroots.com

This Brussels sprouts Prosciutto and Cranberry salad is a great appetizer or side dish for Thanksgiving. This year, skip the relish tray, and set out this dish for your guests to enjoy before turkey time. While it may sound like an unlikely combination of Brussels sprouts, prosciutto, sweetened cranberries and Dijon mustard, the flavors blend together beautifully. While I prefer to serve this as a warm salad, it can also be served cold. Add this dish to your Thanksgiving line up this year for a new and flavorful twist.

Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes

Courtesy of downshiftology.com

If you haven’t tried cauliflower mashed potatoes yet, you are missing out. Cauliflower has a similar consistency to potatoes, with a lot less carbs and calories. Plus, cauliflower potatoes are much faster to make. Season them with fresh herbs and butter, ghee, or olive oil, to give them that traditional mashed potato taste. For an enhanced flavor option, you can roast the cauliflower in the oven before mashing it. Simply cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces, toss with a little olive oil and spices, then bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a food processer, and add fresh herbs, seasonings and butter (or ghee) before serving.

Brown Butter and Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Courtesy of spoonfulofflavor.com 

If you prefer a more traditional potato dish, try these Brown Butter and Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes. They have a delicious flavor and have a more traditional texture that you are used to. You can also make this recipe with regular butter, ghee, or olive oil instead of the brown butter option. This sweet potato dish is a healthier option than their white potato counterpart, because sweet potatoes are full of vitamins C and D which help to boost the immune system, and are also high in magnesium and potassium which help to fight off stress and keep your heart healthy.  

Paleo Green Bean Casserole

Courtesy of fedandfit.com

Green bean casserole is one of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, but in it’s traditional form, it is not the best option if you are watching your weight. This Paleo Green Bean casserole is a great option, because it is made with real ingredients and no questionable fillers (like in cream of mushroom soup). This dish is on my list to try out this Thanksgiving. Try this version out this Thanksgiving and see what you think. It might even become your new favorite way to eat this casserole.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Courtesy of onelovelylife.com 

This sweet potato casserole is absolutely delicious! I made this for the first time last year, and I will definitely be making it again this year. This is a sweet casserole, and can easily be made as a healthy dessert option, as well as a side dish. It is naturally sweetened with maple syrup, and contains other sweet notes like vanilla, cinnamon and coconut oil. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, or if someone attending your Thanksgiving meal has food allergies or sensitivities, this is the perfect dish to make. It is gluten-free, dairy-free (as long as you use a dairy-free milk, my favorite is vanilla unsweetened almond milk), grain-free and has an egg-free option if you need it.  I highly recommend this dish.

Coconut Flour Honey Biscuits

Courtesy of crunchymama.org

What is Thanksgiving dinner without dinner rolls? Now, I love bread but bread doesn’t love me, so for dietary reasons, I haven’t had a roll (or biscuit, in this case) in years. Until now! If you are like me and follow the Paleo diet, these Coconut Flour Honey Biscuits are a great Paleo option for those times when you are craving bread. They are naturally sweetened with honey and maple syrup, and you can adjust how much sweetness you add to the batter which gives you a healthier lower sugar option for these biscuits. You can bet that I will be trying out these biscuits this Thanksgiving.

Roasted Vegetables with Cranberries

Courtesy of revitalizedroots.com

I am especially fond of this side dish because it is one of my own, and it’s darn good! Not to mention it is a crowd-pleaser. If you have tried my Balsamic Chicken and Roasted Fall Vegetables, then it is the same roasted vegetable recipe with a twist. I added sweetened cranberries to give this dish a little sweetness, a pop of color and an authentic Thanksgiving taste. And let me tell you, it is a winning combination. If you are joining me for Thanksgiving this year, this is the dish I am bringing, because I love it so much. While yes, I did use white sugar to make the cranberries, I used three quarters less sugar than the traditional cranberry recipe, making it a healthier option. While I usually try to stick with natural sweeteners, after some taste testing, cranberries sweetened with white sugar tasted the best. If you want an even lower sugar option, only use the cranberries in this dish and discard the sauce left in the pot. This dish is also a great substitute for stuffing if you are grain-free.


Cauliflower Stuffing

This Cauliflower Stuffing is probably the most healthy dish of this list, but don’t let that discourage you from making this stuffing. This combination is full of flavor and is a great vegetarian option for your Thanksgiving dinner. With flavors of carrots, celery, mushrooms and fresh herbs like sage, parsley and rosemary, this dish has a traditional taste without all the bread. If you want a richer taste, swap the chicken stock for turkey drippings from the pan. To make this stuffing dairy-free, you can use olive oil in place of the butter. If you are looking for a gluten-free, healthy and easy stuffing, give this one a shot.

Cornbread Dressing

Courtesy of cookeatpaleo.com

If you want a good gluten free stuffing option, take a look at this Cornbread Dressing. While cornbread is technically not considered Paleo, there is a variation for a grain- free option. This recipe may seem a bit more time-consuming as the cornbread must be cooked the day before. But let’s be honest, you will be in the kitchen prepping for Thanksgiving the day before anyway, so why not bake a batch of this cornbread, while you are doing your other food prep. Make it fun and have a family member help you with the prep so it goes by faster. This cornbread dressing is on my list of recipes to try this Thanksgiving. Since going Paleo, I have always missed traditional Thanksgiving, stuffing but not this year!

Pecan Pie Bites

Courtesy of evolvingtable.com

It’s time for dessert! Isn’t it a drag when you forget to save room for a slice of pie? Why not make these Pecan Pie Bites for a smaller dessert option. If you stick to having one or two of them, you will get the satisfaction of having dessert without over-eating and extra calories. Plus, you can make these tarts ahead of time (they keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator!) which is a huge win when it comes to Thanksgiving prep and cooking.    

There You Have It

My list of 10 healthy side dishes to try this Thanksgiving. I know that one of the things I am thankful for this year is the ability to enjoy some of my old Thanksgiving favorites with a healthy twist. If you follow the Paleo diet, or are just looking to have a slightly healthier Thanksgiving this year, try out a few of these recipes. You may surprise yourself (and your guests) and find a new Thanksgiving favorite to add to your traditional favorites. Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

Amanda Sig

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