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Holidays are a time to honor traditions, break out our best recipes, and celebrate in high style. Still, it can’t be denied that the usual Thanksgiving menu is rough on those with dietary restrictions, and generally leaves most of us feeling as overstuffed as the turkey!
Years ago I decided to take our Thanksgiving menu in a healthier direction. I can now say with confidence that with it really is possible to host a delicious and healthy Thanksgiving meal.
I can safely say none of us miss the traditional versions of classic Thanksgiving recipes and in fact prefer the taste and quality of these easy but homemade dishes.
The Thanksgiving Menu Plan
Here is our favorite Thanksgiving menu, from our family to yours! These recipes are grain-free and (mostly) paleo. If you’d like to try this menu, I’ve included my complete shopping list below.
Turkey (of course!)
First, I highly recommend brining your turkey a few days to a week before the holiday. I quarter an onion and a lemon and place inside the cavity before tying. Then, I rub butter on the outside and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, and basil. I brown at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes to seal in the juices. Then, I reduce the heat to 325 and roast according to the instructions for the size bird.
Roasted turnips and sweet potatoes flavored with apples, celery, and onions. A great way to add some extra veggies to the meal and try some delicious root vegetables. Hints of sage and thyme give it the traditional taste of stuffing without gluten or artificial ingredients.
Green beans topped with a homemade (real) cream sauce and topped with pan-fried onions in a coconut flour batter. This recipe has all the flavor (and more) of the traditional version without the mystery-soup-in-a-can.
At our house, we much prefer sweet potatoes baked and topped with real butter and sea salt, but if you like the marshmallow-topped version, this is a good alternative. It is topped with a homemade egg and honey-based “marshmallow” that is very similar in taste and texture. (It’s just missing that high fructose corn syrup aftertaste…)
If you love potatoes, by all means indulge, but we love this much lower carb cauliflower version that uses pureed cauliflower and all the seasonings of regular mashed potatoes for a delicious substitute. (Don’t worry, I left in the butter and cheese!)
A slightly sweet recipe that leaves out the “equal parts sugar” in traditional recipes. Hints of orange and pineapple sweeten it naturally. Great as a garnish on leftover turkey sandwiches.
Who says kids (or adults) have to dislike brussels sprouts? When roasted until carmelized and topped with bacon and sea salt, brussels sprouts can become a side to fight over!
If you want to serve a soup course, I recommend this one. We love this slightly sweet soup that tastes like Fall in a bowl!
A delicious side that is equally delicious when the leftovers are used in omelets the next morning. Even the kids like asparagus this way, and we usually serve it with Hollandaise sauce.
Thanksgiving Dessert Options
The much loved Thanksgiving dessert gets a makeover without the added sugar and a grain-free almond and pecan crust. (It’s also equally good for breakfast the next day!)
If you aren’t much of a pumpkin fan or need to feed a bigger group, this recipe has a subtle pumpkin taste rolled into a cheesecake.
A healthy version made with coconut flour, lots of eggs (protein!), and spices. Optional cream cheese frosting.
This is one of my favorite grain-free dessert recipes. With no refined sugar and lots of eggs for protein, it is a relatively healthy dessert for special occasions.
How to Put It All Together (Step by Step)
Do the words “menu plan” send chills down your spine?
Here’s how to get a healthy Thanksgiving menu on the table in 5 manageable steps:
Step 1: Write Out a Thanksgiving Menu Plan (or Borrow Mine!)
About two weeks before Thanksgiving, I pull up my holiday recipes in Real Plans (the tool that makes all my menu dreams come true) and decide what I’m going to make. I also check the pantry and make sure I have my staples that aren’t available locally so I have time to order from my favorite online sources.
Doing this well ahead of time saves so much stress. This way I can shop before the stores get really insane and make most of the dishes ahead. Then, on Thanksgiving, I just have to cook the turkey, roast some veggies, and reheat the dishes I’ve made.
Free Printable Shopping List
If reinventing a Thanksgiving menu sounds like too much, here is my full printable shopping list for a healthy Thanksgiving menu.
Step 2: Shop, Prep, and Chop
I head to the store with my list about 5 days before Thanksgiving. Surprisingly, shopping is pretty straightforward (and affordable) when you can spend most of your time in just the produce section of the store. Most of the items on the list (brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) keep well for days.
We plan for a day at home after shopping and I put my kids’ knife skills to work helping me peel and chop the fresh veggies. I also precook any veggies that will be blended into soup or casserole. (The Instant Pot is handy for this!)
I save an extra bowl for chopped veggies for an easy turkey vegetable soup to simmer the day after the big feast.
Step 3: Brine That Turkey!
I don’t mean to be pushy, but really … don’t skip this step! Brining is my favorite way to achieve juicy, amazing turkey every time. Grocery stores of course do their own brining with overly salty solutions with questionable ingredients (that you end up paying for since it adds to the weight).
Some areas are better than others for finding a local organic turkey, but if you can get your hands on one it’s worth the extra planning and expense. A pastured turkey brined at home just can’t be beat for amazing flavor and texture.
A frozen turkey can even slow defrost in a brine. By the time it’s defrosted, you have an amazing juicy turkey ready for roasting! I explain how to brine step by step in this post.
Step 4: Bake a Dessert (or Two)
Pumpkin and pecan pies are a Thanksgiving requirement in our house. Thankfully we’ve mastered grain-free versions of all the desserts we love (and I’ve included a few extras below for good measure).
I usually plan some time in the kitchen about 2 days before Thanksgiving to make one or more of these from start to finish so they are ready for the big day. As my kids get older, one or more of them are able to take charge of this … anything in the name of dessert!
For grain-free rolls, bake a batch or two of coconut flour biscuits. We love them for making sandwiches with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce the day after Thanksgiving!
Step 5: Put It All Together
The day before Thanksgiving, we assemble casserole, soups, stuffings, and basically anything that keeps well overnight. I really just save the turkey and the asparagus for cooking on the big day, and reheat the rest of the food in batches in the oven.
At the end of this day, the cutting board, blender, and a few bowls need washing, but not much else!
Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!
What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Will you use my shopping list or recipes? Share below!