Healthy Thanksgiving Sides: 10 Delicious and Nutritious Recipes

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

healthy Thanksgiving sides

Healthy Thanksgiving sides don't include a ton of cream, butter, or marshmallows, but they can still be fun and taste delicious!

Choosing healthy Thanksgiving sides is as simple as picking recipes containing mostly whole foods as ingredients, with minimal to no added sugar or artificial ingredients.

Also, choose recipes that match your family's taste preferences.

Consider the following tips and recipes below when planning nutritious Thanksgiving meals this holiday season!

Want to eat right all year long? Check out these healthy meals you can eat every day!


Tips for Choosing Healthy Thanksgiving Sides

Thanksgiving sides complement the main dish, which is often Thanksgiving turkey.

When choosing healthy Thanksgiving sides, consider the following tips:

Go High in Fiber

The main consideration when planning healthy Thanksgiving sides is to choose those rich in fiber.

That means picking plant-based foods when possible, which are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

Choose recipes containing fresh fruits or vegetables, whole grains, legumes (dried beans, lentils, peas, etc.), nuts, or seeds as ingredients!

Choose Non-Processed Ingredients

Pick whole foods (non-processed or minimally processed) as ingredients when planning healthy Thanksgiving sides.

Examples include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Avocados
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Natural nut butters
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Organic meat, seafood, or poultry
  • Milk
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese

Steer clear of American cheese and other processed cheeses, processed meats, (ham, regular bacon, regular sausage, etc.), tomato sauces containing added sugar, salad dressings with added sugar, and other highly processed ingredients.

Opt for No Added Sugar

Healthy Thanksgiving sides are those that are free (or nearly free) from added sugar.

That means steering clear of ingredients containing added sugar and recipes with sugar as an ingredient.

If you love sweet-tasting ingredients, consider fresh or dried fruit (without added sugar).

Avoid sauces, dressings, and other condiments containing added sugar when possible, and make sure to check the nutrition facts labels.

Steer Clear of White Sauces

Cream-based sauces, including many types of gravy, often contain more saturated fat from cream, butter, and other animal fats than oil-based products.

Choose sauces and dressings containing olive oil or other plant-based oils as ingredients over those rich in animal fats.

Pick Broth- or Milk-Based Soups Over Cream Soups

Cream-based soups are usually higher in calories and saturated fat than broth-based soups, so pick soups containing broth or milk as ingredients when planning healthy Thanksgiving sides.

If sodium is a concern, opt for low-sodium broth when preparing soups this holiday season.

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Nutritious Ways to Fill a Thanksgiving Plate

When filling your plate with healthy Thanksgiving sides and entrees, consider using the “perfect plate” method to create nutritious meals.

Using this method, you:

  • Fill 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy vegetables
  • Fill 1/4 of your plate with nutritious protein foods
  • Fill 1/4 of your plate with starches and/or healthy fats

Non-Starchy Vegetables: lettuce, spinach, kale, other leafy greens, green beans, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, etc.

Protein Foods: chicken, turkey, duck, organic lean meat, fish, shrimp, other types of seafood, eggs, tofu, seitan, etc.

Starches: sweet potatoes, corn, peas, dried beans, wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain breads, etc.

Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, other plant oils, nuts, seeds, nut butter, olives, fatty fish, and avocados

Learn how to portion your meals with the Perfect Plate strategy!


10 Healthy Thanksgiving Sides

If you're looking for nutritious Thanksgiving sides to share with friends and family this season, consider the flavorful, delicious recipes below!

Colorful Roasted Veggies

This savory roasted veggies side dish makes the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving meal! It's packed with nutrients and flavor.


  • 3/4 pound of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of toasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries


  • Preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
  • Place the vegetables on a large baking sheet and toss them in oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and thyme. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  • Bake it for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables get tender (shake the pan halfway through).
  • Toss the vegetables with pecans and cranberries.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Servings: 4

Healthy Cauliflower Stuffing

Consider replacing traditional stuffing with this nutritious cauliflower stuffing recipe that's lower in carbs and loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals!


  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup of celery, thinly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of pecans, chopped


  • Preheat your oven to 450°Fahrenheit.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Grease well.
  • In a large bowl, mix together chopped cauliflower, onions, celery, and garlic.
  • Toss with olive oil, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  • Spread the mixture in a single layer on your lined baking sheet.
  • Roast the cauliflower mixture in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the onions get soft and the cauliflower browns slightly.
  • Add parsley and pecans to the pan and stir.
  • Roast the mixture for 10-15 minutes until the pecans are lightly toasted, the cauliflower browns, and the onions caramelize.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Servings: 10

Flavorful Sweet Potato Salad

Replace traditional mashed potatoes with this nutrient-dense sweet potato salad recipe as a favorite healthy Thanksgiving side this Fall season!


  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground paprika
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil


  • Preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
  • On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss together the sweet potatoes and red onion in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the veggies evenly on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Bake them until tender (about 20 minutes). Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes and transfer it to a large bowl.
  • Prepare the dressing by whisking together, vinegar, mustard, honey, and spices. Pour in oil, whisking the mixture constantly. Season it with salt and pepper.
  • Toss the potatoes with dressing, cranberries, feta cheese, and parsley.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Servings: 6

Nutritious Green Bean Salad

Rather than traditional green bean casserole, try this nutritious green bean salad recipe that's packed with nutrients and flavor.


  • 2 pounds of trimmed green beans
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut oil
  • 1 pint of halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of chopped peanuts plus more for garnish


  • Boil a large pot of water and add the green beans plus 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook the mixture for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Transfer to beans to a bowl of ice water and drain them.
  • In a small bowl, combine together the onion and vinegar and let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, hot sauce, and peanut oil.
  • Add the green beans and mix to combine.
  • Toss the mixture with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and peanuts.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Servings: 8

Hearty Pumpkin Seed Salsa

Try a festive pumpkin seed salsa recipe this holiday season to wow friends and family!


  • 1 cup of hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1 serrano chile, halved and sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 pound of tomatillos, quartered
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro leaves and stems (plus additional for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice


  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add pumpkin seeds, chiles, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until some seeds start to puff and brown (about 6-8 minutes).
  • Reserve 1 tablespoon of toasted seeds to use as a garnish.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in garlic, and let the mixture cool for 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the pumpkin seed mixture to a food processor.
  • Add tomatillos, scallions, cilantro, and lime juice. Process the mixture until its texture is coarse.
  • Season the mixture with additional salt if needed.
  • Transfer it to a serving dish. Garnish with cilantro leaves and reserved toasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Serve the salsa with whole grain chips, whole-grain bread, or fresh veggies.
  • Enjoy!

Servings: 2 cups

Flavorful Apple Nachos

Replace apple or pumpkin pie with the following apple nachos recipe, or serve it as a favorite healthy Thanksgiving side!


  • 2 apples
  • 1/3 cup of natural peanut, almond, or sunflower butter
  • A handful of shredded coconut (optional)
  • A handful of slivered almonds or walnuts
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • A handful of raisins (optional)


  • Wash and slice the apples.
  • Heat nut butter in a microwave for about 20-30 seconds, until warm and slightly runny.
  • Lay the apple “nachos” on a serving platter and drizzle them with melted nut butter.
  • Top the mixture with toppings of your choice.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Servings: 2

Fiber-Rich Pear Arugula Salad

Consider this mouth-watering, healthy Thanksgiving side dish this holiday season. Your entire family will love a tasty pear arugula salad recipe!


  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of whole-grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 2 cups of baby arugula
  • 2 cups chopped frisée
  • 1/2 head of radicchio, sliced
  • 1 cup of red grapes, halved
  • 3 ounces of blue cheese
  • 3 pears, thinly sliced


  • Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and honey in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add arugula, frisée, and radicchio to the bowl and toss to combine well.
  • Add grapes, most of the blue cheese (reserve a little for the topping), and most of the pears (reserve a few slices for the topping). Toss to combine.
  • Top the salad with the remaining cheese and pear slices.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Servings: 4

Savory Chicken Wild Rice Casserole

You can't go wrong when choosing a nutrient-dense chicken and wild rice casserole recipe as a healthy Thanksgiving side dish!


  • 1 cup of uncooked wild rice (3 cups cooked)
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 5 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped thyme plus additional for garnish
  • 3/4 cup of reduced-sugar dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided


  • Cook the rice according to package directions, and drain off the excess liquid.
  • Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  • Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add diced chicken and sauté the mixture until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink (about 6 minutes). Place it on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
  • Carefully wipe the skillet clean.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the diced squash, onions, salt, and pepper.
  • Sauté the mixture until the onions soften (about 2 minutes). Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash gets tender (about 6-8 minutes).
  • Stir in thyme, cranberries, chicken, rice, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
  • Transfer the mixture to a prepared baking dish and bake it for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle it with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake an additional 5 minutes until the cheese melts.
  • Sprinkle the dish with extra chopped thyme.
  • Serve warm and enjoy!

Servings: 4-6

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Consider a simple, yet flavorful, parmesan roasted broccoli recipe that's packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals!


  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese


  • Preheat your oven to 450° Fahrenheit.
  • Toss the broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Spread it out evenly on a baking sheet.
  • Roast the broccoli in the oven until tender and lightly browned (about 12 minutes).
  • Remove it from the oven, toss with the cheese, serve, and enjoy!

Servings: 4

Festive Butternut Squash Soup

Warm up on a cold Thanksgiving Day with this savory, nutritious butternut squash soup recipe!


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup of canned coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper


  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add in the onion and cook until softened (about 4 minutes).
  • Add the rosemary and squash. Cook the mixture for another minute.
  • Add stock and coconut milk, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes (until the squash softens).
  • Season the soup with salt and pepper.
  • Blend the mixture until smooth.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Servings: 2-4

Erin Coleman
B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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