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 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.
Our Favorite (Healthy) Thanksgiving Recipes + Menu Plan
Here are our favorite Thanksgiving recipes, from our family to yours! I adapted them back when I was completely grain-free and (mostly) paleo, so they are definitely healthy!
If you’d like to try this menu, I’ve included my complete shopping list below.
Mom disclaimer: No, I do not make all of these recipes from scratch every year! This is just a list of our favorites we’ve compiled over time. Some years we are more motivated than others (read: when it’s not a baby year or the year of a worldwide pandemic).
Usually, I prioritize making the main portion of the meal from scratch and keep dessert simple. Even some fresh fruit or grain-free chocolate chip cookies from Thrive Market keeps my crew happy.
Enough from me, let’s dive into all the yummy recipes!
I like to have these around while I’m cooking/baking… along with a good glass of wine of course!
Deviled Eggs (Traditional or Japanese)
Although I personally have avoided eggs for the last few years due to a food sensitivity, my kids and husband would never let me forget these! We have them every year.
In fairness, (since I don’t eat them), this is one Thanksgiving recipe the kids have taken over, thanks to the skills they learned from my favorite online cooking class for kids.
If you’re tired of traditional deviled eggs (not that there is anything wrong with them!), try this amazing Japanese twist on the classic.
Absolutely my go-to holiday or party appetizer. Very little chopping or prep is required and you can load it up with colorful veggies and fruits without anyone suspecting it’s actually healthy! Serve with homemade aioli or dip for healthy fats to take the nutrition even further.
Here’s how to put together a beautiful charcuterie board… no artistic skills required.
Tip: Make some simple bulk nuts better by toasting them for a few minutes in a pan with a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of sea salt.
The Thanksgiving Meal
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 Bean Casserole
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.
Sweet Potato Casserole
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 so this qualifies as a Thanksgiving recipe!)
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.
Bacon and Sea Salt Roasted Brussels Sprouts
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!
Butternut Squash Soup
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!
Parmesan and Sea Salt Asparagus
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
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!
Discussion (39 Comments)
I just found wellness mamma and iI am thankfull because now maybe I can get an understanding of why after all the dieting and aerobics Ive been doing arnt making even the slightest difference.
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Katie, I am so thankful for you. Not only have I gained so much from your posts regarding healthy eating, but I’m so pleased that I learned of the Catholic parenting book on your blog. I still, for the life of me, can’t figure out how you get so much done each day. I think I need to spend a few days with you 😉
Thanks again for doing my homework! 😉 You’re the best!! Can’t wait for the book!!
Wow! What a hit the thanksgiving meal was this year! All credit to the #WellnessMama for the wonderful healthy dishes in this post! I printed the shopping list and recipes and went headed straight to the stores to prepare for my first HEALTHY thanksgiving feast. I feel so good that we exercised, ate and enjoyed the time spent with my family and friends more than ever… my children have been very supportive of my paleo lifestye but have not really eaten the foods… NOW… they are believers. Leftovers were divided up fairly! Brussel sprouts and asparagus were the favorite new sides! We enjoyed our meal so much that we did not feel the need for the dessert. Looking forward to watching this meal and what it represented grow into a healthier life for my family. Thanks again.
That’s wonderful! Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and let me know! 🙂
It was very rewarding to witness the benefits from your sharing.
My daughter has a new home and I am trying to put together healthy living survival kit to get her off on the right foot. Suggestions? … Would love to read your spin on what to include.
Hmmm…. Coconut Oil, coconut flour, almond flour, homemade lotion, soap, etc, some basic herbs and spices and maybe a little printed recipe book?
Cecilia Duval Powers
thanks again for all you do! my not paleo husband loves your green bean casserole!
Great recipes and alternatives to the traditionals. Since hubby and I are eating better now, we will forgo the green bean casserole for fresh, sauteed green beans with a wee bit of bacon, slivered almonds, and onions, totally skipping the cream sauce. I love sweet potatoes just like you describe (hold the marshmallows). I’m going to try your cranberries since in the past I’ve always made the cup for cup recipe on the back — WAY too much sugar. Oh! sharing one more cranberry idea for you. Chocolate dipped FRESH cranberries. Wash, dry, then dip individual cranberries in dark chocolate. THE BEST THING EVER!
Thx so very much on all your hard work putting this out there for all of us:) I am using some of your recipes for my family dinner:)
Wow sounds fabulous! What time should we be there 🙂 I love all your great ideas. I’m cooking a turkey for the first time ever this Thanksgiving and need all the help I can get! I’m also making some yummy roasted root veggies for those of us who don’t want the mashed potatoes and stuffing.
Just don’t forget to remove the neck and liver, etc. from the inside first! I did this the very first time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my new husband and my parents…imagine my surprise at the table when I pulled this out!!!!!
Talk about RED faced!
wow! thank you for putting all this together! i am going to make a few healthier options and bring it over to my folks house for thanksgiving!