Healthy Thanksgiving Side Dishes

thanksgiving side dishsWith Thanksgiving only 4 (really 3 1/2) days away, I know everyone is starting to put the final touches to their menu. So, I thought I would share my favorite tips for maintaining a (fairly) healthy Thanksgiving + 3 healthy, delicious and easy to prepare side dishes.

The tips below are from a previous Thanksgiving Day post I wrote a couple of years back, but the advice is still very much the same. 

Tips For a Healthy Thanksgiving

1. Exercise. Carve out some time during the day, either before and/or after meeting family, to get some solid heart pumping exercise for at least 45-60 minutes.

2. Eat a nutritious breakfast. This will help hold you over until the main course, so you don’t over consume appetizers, and you can fit in your much needed important breakfast nutrients.

3. Put a cap on the alcohol. If you are planning on having an alcoholic drink, set you limit to 1, and definitely no more than 2. Yes, alcohol counts towards your total calories. Alcohol is nothing but wasted calories and sugar, with no real nutritional benefits for your body. Sure, you could get tipsy for a few hours, but the effect wears off and typically leaves you starving…which, then causes you to eat even more to satisfy your cravings.

4. Load up on vegetables. Be it salad or roasted vegetables or sautéed green beans, just make sure the majority of your plate is colorful with vegetables. Your body will thank you later.

4. Drink a lot of water. It’s important to keep everything moving and flowing. The day’s increase in calories will shock your body into a food coma state that typically takes a couple of days to fully wear off.

6. Share dessert if you insist on indulging. No need to sample a variety of desserts all by yourself, share with someone else so you don’t consume the entire slice or serving. Plus, I’m sure someone else is looking to share the willpower with you.

8. Easy on the cheese. Cheese tends to be a popular appetizer option, as well as showing up multiple times through the main course…on vegetables, in a salad, on bread, etc. A little bit of cheese goes a long, long way in increasing your calorie and fat content.

10. It’s a cheat meal, not a cheat weekend. So, limit your leftovers of everything except turkey and veggies. This will keep you from re-eating all of the same calorie-filled foods that you already enjoyed once.

Delicious and Healthy Side Dish Recipes

To help, I’ve included 3 of my favorite side dish recipes:

  • Sautéed Green Beans with Caramelized Onions (found in my cookbook, The Fit Body Way)
  • Herb Roasted Butternut Squash
  • Garlicky Roasted Potatoes with Herbs

All are delicious, easy to prepare using simple ingredients and healthy! Most important – all 3 have always been a big hit at parties!

Sautéed Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

sautéed green beans with caramelized onions

*this serves 4, so multiply ingredients as needed or if you want leftovers


  • 1 lb bag of fresh green beans
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon each of sea salt and fresh black pepper


  1. Wash and rinse the green beans in a colander.
  2. Chop all of the end stems off.Slice the onion in half, and then longways with 1/4 inch thickness
  3. Place olive oil, green beans, onions, salt and pepper and garlic powder in a quart sized pot.
  4. Cook beans on a medium­-high stove setting while covered, and stir occasionally.
  5. Let cook about 20 ­- 40 minutes, or until green beans are semi­-soft and the onions are caramelized.

Herb Roasted Butternut Squash

roasted butternut squash with garlic and parsley*this serves 4, so multiply ingredients as needed or if you want leftovers


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic – grated
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley – rough chopped
  • sea salt and black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prep all ingredients – Wash and peel the butternut squash, then cut into cubes. Thoroughly wash the Italian parsley.
  3. Oil the bottom of a baking pan with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Add the cubed butternut squash. Then, season by grating the 2 cloves of garlic and add a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Toss to get each piece coated with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.
  5. While the squash is baking, rough chop 1/2 bunch Italian parsley.
  6. After 20 minutes of baking, pull the squash out and add in the chopped Italian parsley. And, give everything a quick toss. Then, put back into the oven to bake for another 10 – 15 minutes.

You want the squash to be tender, but not mushy.

Garlicky Roasted Potatoes with Herbs 

roasted potatoes

*this serves 8 – 10, so multiply ingredients as needed or if you want leftovers


  • 5 lb bag Gold potatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 or 2 stalks of fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper
Finished! Light golden brown color with a crisp crunch on the outside.
Finished! Light golden brown color with a crisp crunch on the outside.


  1. Prep all ingredients: Peel and wash the potatoes and leave them whole. Wash the rosemary and thyme and set aside for later.
  2. Parboil all of the potatoes for about 10 to 15 minutes. This is only going to initiate the cooking process. It’s not going to fully cook the potatoes. While the potatoes are boiling, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Next, you’ll need a baking pan. Oil the baking pan and place all of the potatoes on the baking pan. Make sure all of the potatoes are laying flat, you don’t want them to be piled on top of each other. Turn the potatoes a few times to make sure all of them are coated with the olive oil.
  4. Then, season with sea salt and pepper and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
  5. While the potatoes are baking you want to prepare the garlic and herbs (thyme and rosemary). The best way to do this is with a mortar and pestel. Combine a little olive oil, the garlic cloves and the thyme and rosemary leaves, and smash everything together. If you don’t have a mortar and pestel, you can grate the garlic and chop the rosemary and thyme leaves.
  6. At the 40 minute mark, take the potatoes out. Now, what I typically do is lightly smash them down, not all the way, just enough to flatten out the top. Then, spread the mixture of olive oil, garlic and herbs. Just spread the mixture around the potatoes using a spoon.
  7. Place back in the oven to bake of another 30 – 40 minutes.

The Thanksgiving Day Calorie Culprits


Typically, it’s not the Turkey that is to worry about. It’s the side dishes, sauces/gravy, dressings and the volume of desserts that are shared and consumed throughout the day.

The average American will easily consume about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. At first glance, this calorie count seems fueled simply by over consumption. However, careful consideration of the foods being consumed will often show how a few poor choices help to quickly raise the total calorie tally. Foods such as: gravy, stuffing, overuse of butter on multiple items, alcohol, vegetables masked in casseroles and dinner rolls – these foods and beverages, consumed in unison, quickly accelerate your calorie count.

If you are looking for more health, delicious and easy to prepare side dish recipes, then check out my cookbook: The Fit Body Way – click here to learn more

It’s Thanksgiving, we are all going to splurge – so, just put it in your mind that on Friday you’re going to get a solid workout in: a little strength training and a little cardio will help shed the excess calories and get your body back in-order.