Delicious and Nutritious Advice and Recipes for a Healthy Thanksgiving

For individuals with food allergies, weight issues, diabetes, or heart problems, Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday. Here are a few tips to a healthier Thanksgiving, as well as some delicious recipes to make this year’s feast a bit more enjoyable.

A Healthy, Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Meal Is Possible

With the rise of food allergies, weight issues, diabetes, and heart problems, Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday for many Americans. Up to 15 million people have food allergies, and over the last 14 years, the number of children with food allergies has increased by 50%. On an even greater scale, about 40% of Americans are obese. Diabetes affects 30.3 million people in the U.S., and 84.1 million people are pre-diabetic.

Based on these numbers, most traditional American holiday cooking fails to address our health needs.

As Thanksgiving Day nears, you may be wondering how to stay healthy, be considerate of your guests’ health concerns, and still provide a delicious meal. Below, we have a few tips, ingredient substitution ideas, and recipes to make this year’s feast a healthy success for everyone.

Substitute Fatty and Sugary Ingredients for Plant-Based Ingredients

By implementing simple adjustments to Thanksgiving recipes, your dishes will be a welcome alternative for individuals with food allergies and those who are choosing a healthier lifestyle. Butter, sugar, and thickeners (such as condensed soup, cornstarch, and flour) are primary ingredients for many Thanksgiving recipes that can be exchanged for healthier alternatives. When implementing these substitutes, the flavor can also be enhanced with seasonings such as sage, thyme, dill, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.

Below are some specific substitutions for Thanksgiving’s worst dietary and allergy offenders.

Leave Butter Behind

Instead of using butter for cooking and baking, look for vegan alternatives. Most have 50% less saturated fat and offer a similar flavor and consistency. To make whipped potatoes, substitute butter or buttermilk for pureed cauliflower. Make a delicious cauliflower mashed potato and mushroom gravy recipe.

Rather than offering butter with rolls or bread, you could provide guests with a cholesterol-free, dairy-free spread such as carrot miso butter. In 1⅓ cup of carrot miso butter, there are 402 calories and 19 grams of fat versus 1,627 calories and 184 grams of fat in the same amount of butter. Make it for yourself, read the carrot miso butter recipe.

Try New Thickeners

By substituting traditional thickeners for almond flour and pureed vegetables, you can decrease the simple carbohydrate content and increase the fiber content in your gravy and stuffing. If you have vegetarian or vegan guests, you can also swap out turkey stock for vegetable stock.

Give Some More Attention to Vegetables

To keep your guests’ plates balanced and healthy, substitute cream-filled green bean casserole and fried onions for starch-free roasted vegetables — such as butternut squash, zucchini, and carrots. Establish the veggies as a main dish by garnishing them with pumpkin seeds and placing them on a bed of wilted spinach and quinoa.

Use Healthy Strategies to Avoid Overeating and Make Smart Choices on Thanksgiving

Whether you have serious health concerns or not, establishing healthy food consumption patterns this Thanksgiving will benefit your health. Here are a few ideas that may help you fight the urge to overeat or consume unhealthy food options.

  • Consider the portion of each Thanksgiving dish you would like to consume prior to arriving for dinner. Once you fill the plate with your determined portions, that is your meal. Don’t go back for seconds and thirds.
  • Instead of seasoning your meal with salt, sugar, or butter, try using spices like dill, oregano, pepper, and turmeric.
  • Drink two to three glasses of water over the course of your meal to help you feel more full.
  • When you begin to feel full, stop eating. There will always be leftovers to prepare for a snack later.
  • Hold off on dessert for a couple of hours, and switch gears from eating to engaging in some type of physical activity.

Learn Your Guests Dietary Needs, and Create Your Meal Plan Ahead of Time

If you’re hosting a big Thanksgiving get-together, reach out to your guests in advance to learn how you can best accommodate their dietary needs. For guests with diabetes, heart disease, allergies, or a combination of the three, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Ask your guests to recommend a favorite Thanksgiving recipe or dish that meets their dietary needs.
  • Consider preparing your menu from scratch to avoid highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, and excess sodium.
  • Create a list of ingredients for each dish for your guests to review. This will make it easier for guests with special dietary needs to make wise choices.
  • If you have guests with diabetes, try aligning your food spread with the Diabetes Plate Method: 25% protein, 25% grains and starchy foods, 50% non-starchy vegetables.
  • Plan activities before and after your Thanksgiving meal that will help burn off excess calories. Enjoy a walk outside with your guests after the meal or consider participating in a 5K.


Adult obesity facts. (2018, August 13). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from  

Create your plate. (2015, October 8). American Diabetes Association. Retrieved from

Facts and statistics. (n.d.). Food Allergy Research & Education. Retrieved from

New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. (2017, July 18). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from