Is there anything more necessary than a generous scoop of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving? A slice of hot buttered cornbread is nice, too. Some would even say it’s the green bean casserole that really makes the meal special. Personal preferences aside, we can all agree that the sides are the best part of Thanksgiving — next to the smorgasbord of pie, of course. And since we only get to enjoy this celebratory feast one day each year, why not dig in to the indulgent dishes that are so representative of the holiday?
Then again, if you plan on having a lot of leftovers, you could be enjoying these dishes for a few days (or an entire week) after Thanksgiving has passed. That’s incentive to throw some healthier options into the mix. Here are the classic, comforting sides we all long for, with a few minor alterations to make each one less of a splurge. As it turns out, your healthiest Thanksgiving could be your most-traditional yet. Who knew?
Mashed Potatoes (pictured above)
Food Network Kitchen prepares these Mock Mashed Potatoes using cauliflower in place of traditional Yukon Golds, which results in a creamy mash that will have everyone at the table fooled. Garlic and thyme add flavor depth while nonfat Greek yogurt and a little Parmesan bring in some dairy richness and tang.
Studded with tart Granny Smiths and toasted almonds, Ina Garten’s Herb and Apple Stuffing will satisfy the need for something comforting and breadlike on the table. When choosing a loaf at the supermarket, go for whole-wheat bread instead of white.
Mac and Cheese
When you’re expecting mac and cheese, you don’t want a modest bowl of noodles thinly coated in low-fat cheese. You want to see a bubbling vat of the cheesiest macaroni imaginable. Ellie Krieger’s Macaroni and Four Cheeses goes well beyond expectations with the combination of Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Parmesan and ricotta. She brings it back into health-conscious territory by incorporating pureed squash (for fiber) and low-fat milk in place of heavy cream.
Green Bean Casserole
Although it’s a beloved Thanksgiving staple, nutritionists can’t exactly endorse it — until now. For her modified Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots, Ellie skips the condensed cream of mushroom soup and makes a creamy sauce using low-fat milk instead. The result is a seemingly decadent side dish with just 186 calories per serving.
Sweet Potato Casserole
This Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole is everything you want from a Thanksgiving side: It’s traditional and satisfying, but it won’t leave you stuffed. By whipping the sweet potatoes with an egg, you’ll make them creamy without the need for butter. Sprinkle the casserole with pecans just before baking for a hearty yet healthy crunch.
Butter and vegetable oil do not a good cornbread make. Damaris Phillips proves this with her Cast-Iron Skillet Cornbread by using heart-healthy coconut oil and applesauce instead. The finished result has that familiar golden crust, but without the excessive grease.
It’s tough putting a healthy spin on a dish that consists of fruit and white sugar, but this Homemade Cranberry Sauce might be the closest you’ll get (while still maintaining the taste and appearance of the classic dish). One batch serves six, yet there’s just 2/3 cup of sugar in total, resulting in a pleasantly sweet-tart sauce for your turkey and mashed potatoes. A splash of sugar-free orange juice — or better yet, freshly-squeezed — does wonders for the flavor.
For more festive dishes to complement your turkey, check out these recipes from our friends:
Devour: Thanksgiving Side Dishes That’ll Hold Up to Reheating
The Lemon Bowl: Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Foodtastic Mom: French Style Sweet Potato Soufflé
Feed Me Phoebe: Gluten-Free Stuffing with Vegan “Creamed Spinach” and Leeks
The Hungry Traveler: Loaded Smashed Potatoes
Dishin & Dishes: Bacon Wrapped Butternut Squash Wedges
The Mediterranean Dish: Jeweled Couscous with Pomegranate and Lentils
The Fed Up Foodie: Festive Orange Spinach Salad
A Mind “Full” Mom: Parmesan Garlic Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
Creative Culinary: Golden Onion Casserole with Thyme and Toasted Bread Rounds
Swing Eats: Creamed Spinach
Taste with the Eyes: It’s Back – The Stuffing Everyone Loves!
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Pan Seared Cauliflower
FN Dish: Stovetop vs. Oven-Baked: Battle of the Thanksgiving Side Dishes