6 Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

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No offense, turkey, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, you don’t hold a candle to the sides. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato casserole…these delicious dishes definitely steal the show. Only problem is, they tend to pack the most fat and calories (and guilt).

To the rescue: These healthy updates on your favorite Thanksgiving sides, courtesy of Freshly nutritionist Emily Navarro, RDN. Here, she explains how to put our stealth health spin (read: less sugar, fewer processed ingredients and more nutrient-dense foods) on everything from mashed potatoes to gravy. Ready to dig in?

The side: Mashed potatoes

Freshly’s take: Trade traditional mashed potatoes (which tend to be loaded with carbs and calories) for mashed cauliflower. With just 5g of carbs per cup (compared to 26g in potatoes), cauliflower is a great nutrient-dense, low-carb swap. Mashed cauliflower works as a stand-alone side, or it can be used to replace up to half the potatoes in your recipe. To make your own, boil cauliflower until soft and then mash. Pump up the flavor by mixing in your favorite add-ins like garlic, chives, and parmesan cheese. 

The Side: Stuffing 

Freshly’s take: Think outside the (stuffing) box, which tends to be loaded with refined carbs and ultra-processed ingredients you can’t pronounce. Instead, make your own:  Swap the bread for a fiber-rich, gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, or wild rice and use plenty of vegetables (think: onions, carrots, celery, and even mushrooms). Add flavor with comforting herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage. If you’re looking for a little sweetness, toss in seasonal fruit like apples. You can even make a grain-free stuffing by using almond flour, mushrooms, cauliflower, and apples like we do in our carb-conscious almond-cauli stuffing.

The Side: Green bean casserole

Freshly’s take: Don’t be fooled by the veggie name: Typically made with canned green beans, condensed cream soup, and packaged fried onions, this classic is anything but fresh. Just one serving has 160 calories, 9g of fat and more than 450mg sodium, which adds up quickly over the course of the Thanksgiving meal! For a lighter take, toss fresh green beans and mushrooms with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and roast at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes; then, top with caramelized onions instead of the fried, packaged kind. If you’re craving some creaminess, make a healthy sauce by blending steamed cauliflower and parsnips with cashew butter, nutritional yeast, garlic, sea salt, and an unsweetened plant-based milk.

The Side:  Cranberry Sauce 

Freshly’s take: Those can-shaped slices don’t even look appealing—plus, they’re loaded with added sugar: A ¼ cup serving of canned cranberry sauce has 110 calories and 24g of sugar, and contains high fructose corn syrup. Make your own instead (it’s easier than you think!). Simply boil fresh cranberries with ½ cup of water and ½ cup of honey or maple syrup until cranberries pop and the mixture thickens; then, stir in the zest and juice from 1 orange and, add cinnamon for a hint of warm spice. To make cranberry chia jam (great with leftovers!), just stir in 3 tablespoons of chia seeds while the mixture is still hot; let sit until cool, stirring occasionally.

The Side: Gravy 

Freshly’s take: Jarred varieties are loaded with ultra-processed ingredients like refined starches. You’ll also find artificial coloring to mimic that rich, simmered-on-the-stovetop appearance. Rather than crack open a jar, try making your own gravy with Freshly’s healthy spin: Instead of flour and butter, use almond butter to thicken, like we do our dairy-free gravy, which gives it that creamy, crave-able texture along with a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat.

The Side: Sweet potato casserole

Freshly’s take: Butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows turn this nutrient-rich veggie dish into a bona fide dessert. Rather than add artificial sugar, bring out sweet potatoes’ natural sweetness by roasting the potatoes before peeling and mashing them; add flavor with cinnamon and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup or a splash of orange juice. Top it off with toasted, chopped pecans and a sprinkle of unsweetened, flaked coconut instead of sugar-laden marshmallows.