Healthy Eating

The Healthiest Thanksgiving Menu Items, According to a Registered Dietitian

Plus, a sample Healthy Thanksgiving plate.

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

Thanksgiving is the time to reconnect, slow down, and treat yourself. While we love spending time with loved ones (and squeezing in a little extra TLC ourselves), the star of this holiday is obviously the food! Though we never want to deprive ourselves of our favorite classic Thanksgiving goodies, there’s nothing wrong with planning a healthy Thanksgiving menu to help us stay on track. And if you’re curious, yes, healthy Thanksgiving food can be equally as delicious!!

Among all of the delicious choices that we have at Thanksgiving, here are some healthy Thanksgiving tips that people can easily incorporate into their special day.

RELATED: The 30 Healthiest Store-Bought Thanksgiving Dishes 

The Healthiest Thanksgiving Menu Items According to an RD

From Turkey to gravy to mashed potatoes, the comforting and craveable choices waiting at the Thanksgiving table can make anybody’s mouth water. But when all is said and done, healthy Thanksgiving food choices are better for your overall health.

Here are some of the best healthy Thanksgiving menu items that should absolutely find their way on your plate if you’re trying to maintain your health and fitness goals — even over the holidays. 


Carbs are oftentimes avoided out of fear that they will promote weight gain. But eating the right carbs can definitely be a part of a healthy Thanksgiving plate. 

Here are some tips:

Focus on Colorful Options: Focus on colorful, nutrient-dense options like baked sweet potatoes or roasted root veggies to give your body a boost of fiber and important vitamins. 

Prep Them Mindfully: Be mindful of how you’re preparing your carbs! So long as you aren’t adding loads of butter or cream into your traditional mashed potatoes, a proper portion will fit into a healthy meal (and provide some potassium and vitamin C!).

Go For Lower Sugar Options: Noshing on some fruit can be a lower-sugar addition to a healthy Thanksgiving plate. Plus it’s a sweet treat that offers some important nutrients, too.

Low Carb Menu Options 

If you are opting to stick to a low-carb menu, variations of the classic mashed potatoes can easily be explored. 

Here are some healthy Thanksgiving low carb food swaps:

Mashed potatoes: Swap white potatoes to a more nutrient-dense option like roasted root veggies or cruciferous veggies. From mashed cauliflower to mashed carrots to even mashed turnips, alternatives to the familiar spud appear to be just as satisfying. 

Stuffing: If stuffing is more of your thing, swapping out traditional bread with keto or paleo bread can help manage your carb intake while still giving your side that traditional Fall flavor. Look for bread made with nut-based flours like coconut or almond! 

Protein: Of course, proteins like roasted turkey are low carb and are a must when enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. Just be sure to leave out the breadcrumbs or dressings and marinades high in sugar!


Enjoying casseroles and creamy veggies is a mainstay for many families. But sticking with steamed or roasted versions of the salt and fat-laden veggies can help you save some calories while still enjoying some Fall flavor. 

Here are some must-have healthy Thanksgiving menu item ideas:

  • Green beans sauteed with almonds and a drizzle of oil.
  • Roasted garlic cauliflower lightly brushed with ghee or oil. 
  • Carrots roasted with garlic, cilantro, parsley, and a drizzle of oil. 
  • Roasted sweet potato wedges. 
  • Crispy shaved brussels sprouts. 
  • Roasted red and golden beets with sauteed kale. 

There are so many delicious options that can be prepared without needing to add butter, cream, and loads of salt. 


The crown jewel of the Thanksgiving table — turkey! Turkey is loaded with protein and good-for-you nutrients like vitamin B12, choline, and selenium. 

Here are some of the best healthy Thanksgiving tips to keep your protein clean and lean:

Remove the skin to reduce some of the calories and fat consumed. If you keep the skin on, avoid adding butter or other calorie-laden additions. And, watch for any additions like sugary cranberry toppings and gravies, as these can be sneaky vessels for added sugars, salt, and fat.


Desserts are a natural part (who are we kidding, the best part) of Thanksgiving, and nobody would ever suggest skipping this part of the meal! 

Good news — there are nutritious ways to add some holiday goodies to a healthy Thanksgiving menu with a few healthy Thanksgiving tips!

Healthier Pie Tips: When opting for a slice of pie, choose a fruit or veggie-based pie like apple or pumpkin. Oftentimes these choices contain fewer calories than variations such as pecan. And, to keep your pie on the lighter side, remove the crust and skip the whipped topping.

Healthier Toppings: If you’re a topping lover, call on healthy swaps — use coconut cream in place of heavy cream to make a whipped cream, or swap out refined sugar for a natural alternative like dates

Go For Fruit: Be mindful of what foods you’re reaching for. Fresh fruit with a dollop of whipped cream can be a sweet and satisfying choice that is low in calories. 

Be Mindful of Portion Sizes: Keep your portion sizes in check — one or two small cookies can be a satisfying way to end a meal without packing in too many added sugars. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Making The Best Thanksgiving Pies You’ve Ever Had

A Sample Healthy Thanksgiving Plate 

A healthy Thanksgiving menu can mean different things for different people. But generally speaking, a good-for-you plate has appropriate portion sizes of a variety of foods. Instead of filling half of the plate with mashed potatoes and skipping the veggies, including some healthy carbs, vegetables, and protein in a balanced way can be the best way to go. Of course, a small cocktail, some condiments like cranberry sauce, and a small dessert can be included too. 

An ideal plate would be broken up into sections, with:

  • ½ of the plate consisting of fruits and veggies
  • ¼ consisting of grains
  • ¼ made of lean protein

In the case of a healthy Thanksgiving plate, that may mean:

  • ½ of the plate made of a combo of roasted cauliflower and steamed green beans
  • ¼ of the plate made of mashed sweet potato, quinoa, or other grains
  • ¼ of the plate made of sliced skinless roasted turkey 

When it comes to dessert and alcohol, consider these healthy Thanksgiving tips:

  • Enjoy a portion of dessert consisting of a crustless piece of pumpkin pie and a cup of hot tea. 
  • One cocktail to celebrate won’t make or break anything! But if you’re going to enjoy a holiday cocktail, be mindful of serving sizes and opt for mixers and alcohol lower in sugar. 

A Healthy Thanksgiving With Some Small Tweaks

Thanksgiving and eating go hand-in-hand. But, Thanksgiving dinner can be made slightly healthier with some simple swaps and tips! Sticking with lighter choices like roasted turkey, roasted veggies, and healthy grains and taking much smaller portions of choices like green bean casserole and candied yams will help you stay on track throughout this special time of the year. And, with these tips, you’ll still be able to enjoy all of the traditional favorites without feeling deprived!