It’s no secret that Thanksgiving can be a difficult day for the diet-conscious. We’ve all been guilty of a second helping of gravy, or an extra serving of pumpkin pie.
But are some of the staples actually good for you?
We asked a dietitian to share the top six healthy Thanksgiving foods to add to your menu this year – while still leaving room for dessert. Here’s what she had to say.
1. Roasted vegetables.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that roasted vegetables top the list of healthy Thanksgiving foods.
“Roasting vegetables is always a great option,” says Elizabeth Barclay, MBA, a registered dietitian who practices at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “You’ll be able to cook large amounts at once, and you can get plenty of flavor without adding butter. Just drizzle your vegetables with some olive oil, and use your favorite seasonings like thyme, rosemary and garlic cloves to add even more flavor.”
And if your oven is already occupied by a turkey or other Thanksgiving goodies, try grilling or air frying instead.
2. A seasonal salad.
Salads are always a safe bet, but on Thanksgiving, there are even more ways to get creative.
When asked if she had a favorite recipe, Barclay did not disappoint.
“I do! In our house, we have mixed greens, oven roasted butternut or acorn squash, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), blue cheese, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Top it off with olive oil, lemon, and your favorite vinegar. So simple, and so good!”
Collective sigh of relief – turkey made the cut.
It’s loaded with protein, and if you don’t eat the skin, it’s relatively low fat.
“But dark meat does have more saturated fat, so if that’s your favorite, try splitting your protein with white meat,” says Barclay. “You’ll be able to reduce the fat content, without forfeiting any flavor.”
4. Brussels sprouts.
Looking for a new air fryer recipe?
Barclay recommends halving your Brussel sprouts and then blanching them for about 3 minutes. Then mix with olive oil, pepper, cayenne, paprika and garlic and place them in the air fryer for your desired tenderness. At the last minute, add some parmesan cheese to melt on top.
“Brussels sprouts are a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and iron,” she says. “They have tons of other benefits too, so getting them in your diet is always a great idea.”
5. Butternut squash.
Looking for the perfect side dish, or a healthier substitute for mashed potatoes?
Enter, butternut squash.
“A great source of Vitamin C, magnesium and fiber, your Thanksgiving table won’t be complete without butternut squash,” says Barclay. “Try cubing the squash to roast with olive oil, cinnamon and rosemary, or mashing it with butter like potatoes.”
6. Fresh bread.
No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a basket of fresh bread to soak up all the gravy.
“Like most things, homemade bread tends to be healthier than store bought,” says Barclay. “Try using whole wheat flour instead of white, or opting for something with seeds or grains in the bread.”
And don’t forget…
What’s actually the best thing to have around your table? Family and friends.
“Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food. It might be a delicious addition, but the holidays are really about the people you’re spending time with,” says Barclay.
So there you have it – straight from a dietitian.