Turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and of course pumpkin pie are foods that come to mind when thinking of a Thanksgiving menu. Some recipes have added sugar, unhealthy fats, or large amounts of salt, which while making them taste delicious, are not the best choice for keeping your heart in good shape.
We have gathered some wonderful recipes to use for appetizers, mains, sides, and desserts that are both healthy and enjoyable!
Choosing appetizer recipes that are great for heart health is easier than you may think. With Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, Whole30, vegan, and vegetarian diets rising in popularity, there are a plethora of options when considering heart-healthy Thanksgiving recipes, including appetizers.
Deviled Eggs & Finger Foods
For low-carb appetizers, deviled eggs are a festive option. Simply hard boil a dozen eggs, then separate the cooked yolks. Add in mayo, mustard, a dash of white wine vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Top them off with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and you have a low-carb, gluten-free easy recipe that will please many!
Other stellar healthy Thanksgiving recipes include baked feta cheese with roasted grapes, stuffed mushrooms, or classic hummus drizzled with olive oil and served alongside whole grain crackers.
For a beautiful holiday season appetizer for your Thanksgiving meal, a charcuterie board is a great customizable option.
To keep your options heart-healthy, choose meats like lean turkey breast or preservative-free chicken. If you choose to use cheese, try fresh, part-skim mozzarella which is usually lower in saturated fat and sodium than other types of cheese. For a festive finishing touch to your board, sprinkle with toasted nuts and pomegranate seeds.
According to the National Grocers Association, for Thanksgiving 2016, Americans were stuffing their shopping carts with over 311 million pounds of turkey and over 213 million pounds of potatoes! Whether you need to cut back on fat or add more vegetables to help build a healthy heart and body, there are many healthy Thanksgiving recipes that are ready to be tried… and tasted!
Roasted Herb Turkey
Let’s talk turkey. A healthy Thanksgiving meal can easily accommodate a beautifully-tasting whole turkey. Season the inside of a 12-14 lb. turkey with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and sage. Place the whole bird breast side up in a roasting pan surrounded by carrots, onions, and celery. Brush 1 tbsp of a heart-healthy oil on top along with more herbs.
Cover loosely with foil and roast in a 425-degree (F) oven for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 325°F and roast for about three hours longer until the thermometer reads 180°F. Place the roasted turkey on a serving platter and garnish with fresh thyme, pears, or kumquats.
Lentil Stuffed Squash
A healthy Thanksgiving recipe that vegetarian, vegan, and meat eaters can enjoy is lentil-stuffed squash with mushrooms, cranberries, and pecans. This heart-healthy dish is full of winter flavors and roasted vegetables, and is sure to become a Thanksgiving favorite.
For this mouthwatering, low-fat, main-dish Thanksgiving recipe, wash, slice, and prepare delicata squash. Next, sauté crimini mushrooms, onions, sage, thyme, and bay leaves. Add lentils and vegetable broth and simmer until it is cooked “al dente.” Meanwhile, rub the outside of the squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes.
When the squash is finished roasting, lay pecans evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 3 minutes until they have a fragrant nutty flavor. Next, remove the bay leaves from the lentils and add the roasted pecans, dried cranberries, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Finally, scoop the mixture into the roasted squash, cut in halves, and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve warm!
This great recipe can also allow for other healthy Thanksgiving ingredients. Try subbing wild rice for the lentils, or butternut squash for the delicata squash. Chicken broth can be used instead of vegetable broth, but of course, the dish would no longer be vegetarian. The lentils can also be cooked in a crock pot or Instant Pot if you need more space on your stovetop.
When looking for healthy Thanksgiving recipes, think whole foods, healthy fats, low sugar, and whole grains. Some healthy Thanksgiving side dishes that are both tasty and great for heart health include:
- Mashed potatoes
- Twice-baked sweet potatoes
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Butternut squash
Mashed potatoes are a staple side dish recipe, but are usually made with heavy cream, full-fat milk, and LOTS of butter. For a lower-fat version, try swapping out all or part of the cream for coconut milk and swapping the butter for ghee. Add in some fresh minced rosemary, roasted garlic, salt, and pepper and you are ready to eat some delicious mashed potatoes.
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another staple side dish for the Thanksgiving table. There are many heart-healthy Thanksgiving recipes, but twice-baked sweet potatoes are a great choice, with some modifications.
Twice-baked sweet potatoes are usually made by first baking the sweet potatoes, removing the insides then mixing with cream cheese, butter, marshmallows, brown sugar, and spices, then baking again before serving.
With some simple modifications, these mashed sweet potatoes become the perfect side to a healthy Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of the sugar, cream cheese, and butter, try making savory mashed sweet potatoes by adding sautéed shallots and thyme to baked mashed sweet potatoes, then add salt, pepper, an egg, and Fontina cheese. Fill the skins and top with a sprig of thyme.
These savory and healthy baked mashed sweet potatoes are delicious!
Green Beans, Brussels Sprouts, and Butternut Squash
Vegetables including green beans, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash are stellar options for your Thanksgiving dinner menu. You don’t have to fry them or use tons of cheese or processed soups to get a good taste, either.
Green Bean Casserole
For a traditional green bean casserole side dish recipe that is made with whole foods, skip the typical canned soups laden with preservatives and make your own healthier version!
To make a Whole30 cream of mushroom soup, sauté onions and mushrooms in ghee. Then add chicken broth, salt and pepper, and arrowroot powder. Simmer until thickened, then add coconut cream. Combine your steamed green beans and homemade cream of mushroom soup.
Next, bread some sliced yellow onions with egg, tapioca and almond flour, salt, garlic powder, and paprika and sauté in a dab of coconut oil. These healthier “fried onions” are so tasty and one cup should be added to the soup mixture.
Cover and bake the whole green bean casserole for 25 minutes at 350°F. Add the remaining fried onions and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts
Roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts would be a beautiful festive side dish recipe for your healthy Thanksgiving main meal. For this dish, simply roast oiled and seasoned cubed butternut squash and sliced Brussels sprouts. Mix in dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds. When finished, add a splash or two of maple syrup, stir, and serve!
When thinking about healthy Thanksgiving recipes, you can’t forget the dessert! Many people wonder, “Is sugar bad for my heart?” The answer is, yes, excessive sugar can lead to cardiovascular issues. But, by choosing fruits and natural sugars, and limiting consumption, people should be able to still save a little room for dessert!
Pecan Pie Bars
Instead of choosing the traditional pecan pie recipe made with corn syrup, brown sugar, and white sugar, try no-bake pecan pie bars. Gluten-free and vegan, these bars use almond flour, pecans, dates, oats, and cinnamon to make a wonderful base. A salted caramel topping can be made using dates, water, vanilla, and salt. The bars are topped with crushed pecans and chilled before slicing. A great dessert for a healthy Thanksgiving dinner!
Pumpkin Pie Bars
If you aren’t a fan of pecans, try pumpkin bars. This is a healthy Thanksgiving dessert option that uses similar smart choices for the crust as pecan bars, but also uses maple syrup, coconut sugar, and coconut milk to help form the healthier pumpkin filling.
After a big meal, some people would rather have a simple warm baked apple covered with a cinnamon oat streusel or a comforting cherry crisp served with coconut whipped cream.
Whatever dessert you choose to finish off your healthy Thanksgiving meal, with a few smart choices, everyone is sure to be satisfied.
Tips for a Healthy and Safe Thanksgiving Celebration
With Thanksgiving meals right around the corner, now is the time to prepare for a healthy and safe time. No one wants to have an emergency health issue, and especially not during a fun gathering like Thanksgiving. However, it is a good idea to be prepared for an accident or health emergency.
If you are hosting a meal at your home, consider brushing up on your CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, and the steps to take for cuts and burns. To prepare for an unexpected cardiac arrest, consider purchasing an AED with real-time CPR feedback, like the ZOLL AED Plus. Or, if you want to have clear instructions visible through a video presentation to make sure any layperson can help with confidence, look for an AED with full motion graphics and voice coaching, like the Defibtech Lifeline View AED.
Finally, if you are aware of a relative who has a heart condition or you simply want to be ready to help at a moment’s notice, there are tools available that can help with a hospital transfer if the need should arise. Some portable defibrillators can connect to WiFi at a receiving hospital and send the patient’s heart rhythm and a record of the shocks given. The Physio-Control LIFEPAK CR2 AED is a smart choice for people who value this capability.
Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours
We all want a healthy and happy Thanksgiving day with family and friends. The clever recipes we’ve shared using heart-healthy ingredients are delicious and are sure to be crowd-pleasers while helping to keep everyone healthy and well.
If you will be hosting a Thanksgiving meal in your home, preparing for accidents and emergencies before the day will put you well on your way to enjoying a memorable time with loved ones that ends happily and without any preventable complications. From our families to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!