Light and Healthy Thanksgiving Sides and Desserts

Thanksgiving is one of my family’s favorite holidays. Oh, the abundance of food and delicious desserts!  As much as we love this traditional holiday, I have not always loved that overly full feeling afterward. Can you relate? So, I’m on a mission to add some new appetizing dishes to our table this year with a healthier twist, without sacrificing flavor.

thanksgiving table

With all the colorful root vegetables and sweet and flavorful fruits that autumn brings, I think we can agree that adding some healthy-ish dishes to your table is doable and delicious!

Thanksgiving Classics, Lightened Up!

One Pan- Roasted Fall Vegetables

Speaking of color, is your mouth watering just looking at this ravishing dish of fall vegetables?  Brussel sprouts and butternut squash come together with walnuts and cranberries to create that perfect sweet and savory blend.  I love that this side can be made ahead of time and in one pan, so it doesn’t take up too much valuable oven space. Double bonus!

Pro Tip: Line your baking sheet with parchment paper (instead of foil), and your vegetables will slide right off, making cleanup a breeze!

Green Beans
Image from Barefoot Contessa

Green Beans Gremolata

Last year, this green bean recipe was a hit at my Thanksgiving feast! The garlic, pine nuts, and squeeze of zesty lemon make this dish a new Thanksgiving staple. I even make it year-round now, as it is often requested at our family gatherings. 

Budget Tip: To help save a little money on the shopping list, replace the pine nuts with almond shavings.

Mashed Potatoes
Image from Dinner at the Zoo

Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes

Other than the turkey, there is nothing more quintessentially “Thanksgiving” than traditional mashed potatoes! I always say the simpler the recipe, the better, for both ease and calories!  Using my 8-quart Instant Pot has been such a time saver for me in the kitchen.  If you do not have one yet, I highly recommend it!  With the help of the Instant Pot, your mashed potatoes will come out creamy, and ready in 20 minutes tops!

Image from Ambitious Kitchen

15-Minute Orange Cranberry Sauce

After you try this simple, homemade cranberry sauce recipe, you will never buy the canned stuff again. This quick and easy stovetop dish pairs well with your Thanksgiving turkey. Get your little chefs involved too – my boys made this on their own last year, and you can be sure this will be on our menu again this year.

Roasted Butternut Squash + Blackberry Salad
Image from Fit Foodie Finds

Roasted Butternut Squash + Blackberry Salad

Seeing that we are trying to be more health-conscious this year, this leafy green harvest salad will make a flavorful addition to your table spread. With rich ingredients of blackberries, butternut squash, and kale greens, you have a beautiful and healthy seasonal salad! 

Pro Tip: To help reduce the bitterness in your kale: massage, chop, and then rinse your kale. Also, you can purchase your butternut squash pre-cooked and cubed to help save time.

Turkey Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Bread Stuffing
Image from

Turkey Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Bread Stuffing

Stuffing at Thanksgiving is just marvelous! In this recipe, turkey sausage and whole-grain bread lighten up the standard stuffing and enhance this Thanksgiving staple.

Hosting Tip: This beautiful baking dish goes from the oven to the table. I use mine year-round!

Thanksgiving Desserts on the Lighter Side

pumpkin spice cupcakes
Image from Barefoot Contessa

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

No matter how full you feel after Thanksgiving, there’s ALWAYS room for dessert! Nothing says “fall” like the scent of nutmeg, ground cinnamon, and ginger. Your guests will enjoy these lighter cupcakes, and you will enjoy not being left with an overabundance of leftover desserts in your fridge. Pop these in your oven during dinner, and let the aroma of this simple dessert fill your home!

Warm Apple Crisp

With just around 250 calories, this apple crisp is full of flavor and warmth. Fresh apples and a buttery cinnamon oat topping make a divine combination! Don’t forget to serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

What is a feast without pumpkin pie? This simple, gluten-free version can be prepared and even frozen before your holiday dinner.  You can start with a premade gluten-free pie crust to make things even easier.

Wishing you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! I hope your guests enjoy this lightened-up menu and you enjoy some timesavers in the kitchen as well. May your guests be pleasantly satisfied and your home be filled with warmth this holiday season!

This post contains affiliate links. The ideas are ours, but we may be compensated if you make a purchase by clicking on one of the links. Thanks for your support!

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