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10 Healthy Twists on Classic Thanksgiving Recipes, According to Dietitians

Simple ways to spruce up your Thanksgiving favorites.

Thanksgiving is a time for comfort foods that we have been enjoying on the last Thursday of November since we were little. From pumpkin pie to mac and cheese, the menu doesn't tend to vary from year to year, and we can always count on our classic favorites.

If you are trying to follow a healthy diet over the holidays, you can still enjoy your favorite dishes and maintain your efforts. No need to skip your favorite sides or opt for fat-free and flavorless alternatives. By including some dietitian-approved healthy twists when you are prepping your dishes, you can reduce the calories and increase the nutrition of your favorite foods without compromising on taste.

So tie on your best cooking apron, preheat your oven, and try out some of these healthy twists on classic Thanksgiving recipes that taste just as good as what your grandma used to make. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 10 Ways to Stay Healthy on Thanksgiving, According to Dietitians.

Add prunes to your stuffing.

stuffing prunes

We all know that adding ingredients like sausage or oysters can take a stuffing recipe to the next level. But a less-known stuffing ingredient, the humble prune, can add a satisfying taste to the classic side dish and offer up some nutritional benefits too.

Also known as "the feel-good fruit," prunes contain a combination of fiber and phenolic compounds that supports digestive health. And prunes are a natural source of potassium, a nutrient that many Americans don't eat enough of.

Simply add your prunes into your stuffing mix before baking. (I'm a fan of Sunsweet Amaz!n prunes.) The end result will be an utterly satisfying and surprising side dish that will be gobbled up in no time.

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Add cranberries to your candied yams.

candied yams

No, we are not taking away your beloved candied yams. But we are suggesting you add a not-so-secret ingredient to your traditional side that is a quintessential fall food and offers a host of health benefits: cranberries.

Simply sprinkling cranberries on your candied yams dish before baking it can add a satisfying tartness to the dish along with some major health benefits.

In fact, a component naturally found in cranberries called proanthocyanidins (or PACs) may play a role in supporting gut health. In one study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, results found that consuming cranberry juice containing 44 milligrams of PACs per 240-milliliter serving twice a day for eight weeks resulted in a 20% reduction in the H. pylori infection rate in Chinese adult participants compared to those consuming lower amounts of juice and a placebo. H. pylori infection is the primary identified cause of gastric cancer while other major risk factors include chronic gastritis, high-salt diets, and chemical carcinogens.

Use Allulose in baked goods recipes.


From pies to cookies to cakes, the sweet treats are the perfect finale to any Thanksgiving dinner. To add some sweetness to your dishes without added calories or a potential blood sugar spike, use allulose in place of your standard table sugar when whipping up your classic recipes. Not only will you be getting a similar sweet taste that sugar offers, but you will also be getting far fewer calories (0.4 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram) and no risk of experiencing a high blood sugar after it is enjoyed, thanks to the body not recognizing it as sugar.

Allulose is 70% as sweet as table sugar, so people often are content with swapping 1 1/3 cup of allulose for their 1 cup of sugar. Of course, you can try other non-nutritive sweeteners too depending on your taste preference.

Make a nut-based pie crust for your dessert.


Skipping dessert over Thanksgiving is not an option for many people, nor should it be. Between the must-have pumpkin pie to the cozy apple treats, having something sweet after our repast is a must.

Classic pie crusts, while delish, can be loaded with saturated fat and calories, while not offering up many nutritional benefits. For a simple swap with no sacrifice on taste, make a nut-based pie crust using crushed walnuts, pecans, or pistachios, butter, and a touch of sugar (if desired). Grind all ingredients in a food processor, press into a pie dish, and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. From there, you can fill with whichever pie filling your heart desires and you can feel good knowing that your dessert now contains a boost of healthy fats and plant-based proteins that the classic version can't hold a candle to.

RELATEDSecret Side Effects of Eating Walnuts, Says Dietitian

Add beans to your mashed potatoes.

mashed potatoes

Adding a can of drained white kidney beans to mashed potatoes is a hack that Brynn McDowell, RDN, registered dietitian, includes in her Thanksgiving prep. She explains that this addition adds "a little extra protein and fiber to her dish and no one ever notices the addition."

Leave the peel on your potatoes before mashing.

mashed potatoes skin

Did you know that removing the skin of your potato also removes 50% of the fiber that those super spuds can provide?

Chrissy Badaracco, MPH, RD, LD, registered dietitian, recommends leaving the skin on the potatoes before you mash them for an easy way to preserve this important nutrient in this classic dish.

Add tofu to your pumpkin pie.

pumpkin pie

Using silken tofu in a pumpkin pie recipe is a tip that Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, registered dietitian, loves to recommend. "This is a great way to add fiber, vitamins and minerals and protein to your dessert."

Use whole wheat breadcrumbs to top your green bean casserole.

green bean casserole

Green bean casserole and fried onions go hand in hand. But would you believe that topping your classic casserole with whole wheat bread crumbs can make a super satisfying dish that is far lower in calories and fat than the OG version.

Make an open faced fruit pie.

open faced pie

"An easy way to reduce saturated fat in pie is to choose an open face pie rather than a double crust. Most of the fats in fruit-filled pies are in the crust, not the filling," says Bri Bell, RD, a registered dietitian at

Use maple syrup instead of sugar in cranberry sauce.

cranberry sauce

100% pure maple syrup gives many dishes a classic fall flavor. And leaning on it instead of table sugar in recipes like cranberry sauce provides some antioxidants and micronutrients that classic recipes don't contain. Typically, people use a 1:1 ratio swap when using 100% pure maple syrup instead of table sugar.

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Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more about Lauren
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