Nutritionists’ Favorite Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Who says the holiday season has to widen your waistline? With these four healthy recipes—all with a nutritionist’s seal of approval—you can have your pie, casserole or side dish and eat it, too. The best part: They taste just like—or even better than—the classic versions, but have more nutritional benefits and fewer calories. Triple win!

MORE: 5 New Ways to Cook Squash

1Rustic Sweet Potato Flan

This recipe from Jackie Newgent, registered dietitian and author of the “Tasteovers by Jackie” blog, is a makeover of the traditional baked sweet potato casserole with 1/3 less calories. So it’s a sweet and savory indulgence you can feel good about eating.

5 medium sweet potatoes (jewel yams), unpeeled, well scrubbedӬ
6 fluid ounces plain almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk beverage
1/3 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurtӬ
1/2 cup coconut palm or turbinado sugarӬ
1/4 cup applesauce or apple peach sauceӬ
2 large organic eggs, beatenӬ
3/4 teaspoon sea saltӬ
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1 ¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, softened

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3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut palm or turbinado sugarӬ
3/4 cup mixture chopped walnuts and pecans
1/3 cup whole wheat or other whole grain flour
3 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, meltedӬ
2 teaspoons unsulphured molassesӬ
1/4 teaspoon sea saltӬ
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract

2Rustic Sweet Potato Flan

Add sweet potatoes to a large saucepan. Fill with cold (filtered) tap water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until sweet potatoes are fully softened, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F. When just cool enough to handle, finely chop the sweet potatoes and add to a large bowl along with almond milk and yogurt. Blend on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add sugar, applesauce, eggs, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and butter, and blend on high speed until very smooth, about 1 minute. Spread evenly into a 9×13-inch baking pan. Stir together topping ingredients until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over sweet potato mixture. Bake until fully set and topping is well caramelized, about 40 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

3Better-for-You Green Bean Casserole

A yummy take on the traditional Turkey Day staple, this dish from Serena Ball, R.D., co-author of the blog “Teaspoon of Spice,” features caramelized onions and cremini mushrooms—one of the few good food sources of vitamin D.

1 ½ pounds green beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 packages (8 ounces) cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups 1% milk
1/3 cup caramelized onions, warmed

4Better-For-You Green Bean Casserole

Add green beans to large pot of boiling water. Cook about 7 minutes until tender crisp. Immediately drain i:n colander and rinse with very cold water. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter in large non-stick skillet. Sauté onion about 6 minutes until tender. Add additional 2 teaspoons oil and heat. Stir in mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme; sauté 8 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Add flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Then slowly add milk while stirring. Heat to boiling and cook about 3 minutes or until thickened. Add green beans and stir carefully to coat. Pour into serving dish (or oven-proof casserole dish if you plan to warm in the oven before serving), and top with caramelized onions.

5Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Pecan Crust

Just because it’s pie doesn’t mean it has to be bad for you. For starters, pumpkin is a colorful vegetable filled with beta-carotene, an important antioxidant. And this recipe, from Hana Feeney, registered dietitian and author of the blog “Nourishing Results,” is gluten-free and lower in sugar than the typical slice of pie.


6 Pamela’s Ginger Snaps, or 6 ounces any gluten-free ginger snap cookies
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons organic butter

Pumpkin Custard
1/4 cup organic butter
3 organic eggs, beaten
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup organic brown sugar, optional
1/4 cup organic white sugar, optional

6Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Pecan Crust

Preheat the oven to 350 F and get a 9-inch pie plate ready. Melt butter in the pie plate. Place ginger snaps and pecans in the food processor or VitaMix. Whizz around until cookies and pecans are coarsely ground. (Not as fine as flour, but you don’t want any chunks either.) Dump cookie-pecan mix into the pie plate. Working with your hands, press into the bottom of the pie plate. Press the crust up the sides, working from the center out. Bake for 8-10 minutes. While the crust is baking, make the custard. Melt butter in a glass mixing bowl. Beat eggs and add to mixing bowl. Combine pumpkin, beaten eggs and spices. Taste the pumpkin mixture. Add the sugars slowly to your liking. Mix thoroughly. When the crust is done baking, turn up the oven heat to 450. Allow crust to cool. Pour pumpkin mixture into cooled crust. Place the pie into the oven at 450 for 10 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 350 for 30 minutes. Bake until the center of the pie is set. Allow pie to cool.

7Post-Thanksgiving Squash Pudding

After your relatives leave, use the leftover butternut squash (high in skin-boosting vitamin A) to make this recipe—from Deanna Segrave-Daly, R.D., co-author of the blog “Teaspoon of Spice”—as a special healthy treat. Hey, you’ve earned it!

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups low-fat milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Dash of salt
1 ½ cup pureed butternut squash (sweet potatoes, yams or other winter squash)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

8Post-Thanksgiving Squash Pudding

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in milk, brown sugar, cornstarch and salt with a whisk. Whisk constantly until bubbles start to break and mixture thickens. Stir an additional 2 minutes. Mix in squash, vanilla and nutmeg. Whisk until heated through, about 5 minutes. Pour into six (6-ounce) ramekins and cool in refrigerator until set, about 2 hours.