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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Healthy Eating arrow Healthy Thanksgiving Sides to Balance Your Thanksgiving Feast

Healthy Thanksgiving Sides to Balance Your Thanksgiving Feast

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: April 14, 2023
10 min read 1219 Views 0 Comments
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Thanksgiving is a great time to indulge in your favorite foods. If you want to eat plenty without filling up on excess calories, there are ways to make your Thanksgiving dinner nutritionally balanced with some healthy Thanksgiving side dishes. Here, we bring you 20+ side dishes to have on your Thanksgiving table.

healthy thanksgiving sides

Thanksgiving is the perfect excuse to overindulge, but that doesn’t mean your holiday meals have to interrupt a healthy diet. Plenty of delicious Thanksgiving dish recipes can make your Thanksgiving plate a balanced meal full of healthy food that supports your overall health.

The main dish is usually the priority, but you can get creative with your Thanksgiving side dishes to boost your nutrient intake while adding mouth-watering flavors. From traditional family favorites to unique recipes, there’s no shortage of healthy Thanksgiving sides.

This article reveals over 20 side dishes that won’t throw your diet off course.

20+ Healthy Thanksgiving Sides for Your Cozy Celebration

You can maintain your diet with some swaps, recipe alterations, and mindful choices. From your roasted vegetables to the more inventive accompaniments, here are 22 side dishes that add just the right amount of comfort and flavor to make your Thanksgiving dinner one to remember.

#1 Mashed sweet potatoes

Mashed sweet potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a family favorite and a staple of any Thanksgiving dinner. White mashed potatoes are one of the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes. Still, if you want to increase your fiber intake, sweet potatoes are an easy Thanksgiving side dish alternative.

One sweet potato has 3.9g of fiber. It has plenty of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A for good vision and a strong immune system. It also has vitamin C for cell protection and potassium for healthy heart, muscle, and nerve function.

Sweet potatoes are also a good weight loss side dish, as their fiber and complex carb content keep you feeling full for longer. If you don’t fancy sweet mashed potatoes, you could consider sweet potato salad recipes or a sweet potato casserole to get your dose of vitamins.

#2 Mashed cauliflower

Mashed cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable you can eat year-round. On the Thanksgiving table, it makes a healthier alternative to buttery mashed potatoes as it has far fewer calories and carbs. It’s also more nutrient-dense and will give your body greater health benefits.

Cauliflower is full of bioactive compounds, including phenolics and flavonoids, that serve as antioxidants that help protect against cancers. Cruciferous vegetables have glucosinolates, which have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce cancer risk.

#3 Cauliflower rice

Cauliflower rice

If you want a mash alternative, you can’t beat cauliflower rice. Like mashed cauliflower, it’s full of cancer-fighting antioxidants, like vitamins A and C. It’s higher in B vitamins than regular white rice, with riboflavin and folate, for healthy cell growth and function.

Cauliflower rice is a good source of choline – an essential nutrient that keeps the heart healthy, supports brain function, and helps your liver function properly. This side dish is quick and easy to make. It tastes delicious, and you can eat it raw or cook it over medium heat.

#4 Honey-glazed carrots

Honey glazed carrots

Honey-glazed carrots are a real crowd-pleaser and a great side dish for adding sweetness. Carrots are great for weight loss because they are low in calories, with only 25 calories in a medium carrot. The high fiber content promotes satiety and may help you burn stubborn fat.

A side dish of roasted carrots will boost your bone health because carrots have calcium and vitamin K. Meanwhile, honey is a natural sweetener high in antioxidants that support your overall heart health. Honey also works as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent.

#5 Oven-baked sweet potatoes

Oven-baked sweet potatoes

Oven-baked sweet potatoes are an effort-free way of getting your A and C vitamins. There’s no hand masher or tools required, only a baking tray! Simply serve these complex carbohydrates alongside roast turkey, and leave the skin on to get the most fiber and other nutrients.

#6 Roasted Brussels sprouts

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a Thanksgiving staple. These cruciferous veggies are loaded with calcium, potassium, and vitamins C and K. Eating them can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of developing heart disease and other health conditions.

Roasted vegetables make delicious side dishes because they have a crispier texture and a sweet, charred flavor. For those who don’t enjoy Brussels sprouts – roasting them with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper can create an entirely new flavor you love.

#7 Roasted broccoli with parmesan

Roasted broccoli with parmesan

Broccoli is packed with vitamins and minerals. It provides various health benefits, like regulating blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, aiding weight loss, and promoting a healthy heart. The high antioxidant content makes broccoli an excellent food for reducing oxidative stress.

In addition, parmesan has many benefits for health. Grating parmesan cheese over roasted broccoli adds flavor and provides a nutritious dose of protein and calcium to support your bones.

#8 Tahini roasted cauliflower

Tahini roasted cauliflower

Tahini is a Middle Eastern condiment that adds a tasty nutty flavor. It is made from ground sesame seeds, which are a great source of fiber, protein, and healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids. Consumption of tahini may reduce blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors.

Combining tahini with cauliflower provides a double-health boost, as both ingredients are rich in essential nutrients. Plus, tahini roasted cauliflower recipes offer a fun spin on plain cauliflower side dishes, adding additional flavors to your healthy Thanksgiving plate.

#9 Sautéed carrots

Sauteed carrots

Instead of frying vegetables in copious amounts of fat, you can sauté your vegetables with a bit of heart-healthy olive oil. 

Sautéing is an ideal way to cook carrots. It maintains the carrot’s nutritional value, including its essential carotenoid content. You can get your dose of beta-carotene and other powerful antioxidants in minutes. Try adding your favorite spices for an additional kick.

#10 Roasted butternut squash with rosemary

Roasted butternut squash with rosemary

Butternut squash is a type of winter squash that boasts numerous health benefits. It is low in calories and rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including potassium and magnesium, which can aid blood pressure management and reduce the risk of heart disease and other diseases.

Rosemary has therapeutic effects with significant antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that help fight diseases. The herb is also associated with improved mood, memory, and sleep. Plus, it works tremendously well with turkey and other poultry.

#11 Broccoli salad with quinoa

Broccoli salad with quinoa

Salad recipes make healthy Thanksgiving sides. You can combine almost anything in a salad, but why not try a broccoli salad with quinoa? You can get abundant nutrients from two healthy foods in one bowl.

Quinoa is a fiber-rich, gluten-free seed and an excellent source of plant protein – nutrients that keep you full for longer and prevent overeating. It has folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc, among others. Meanwhile, broccoli ticks all the boxes when choosing a healthy vegetable.

#12 Kale salad with cranberry

Kale salad with cranberry

Kale is among the world’s healthiest foods. This superfood has polyphenols, carotenoids, and glucosinolates which help ward off infections. You can also benefit from high amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, essential for wound healing and protecting your bones and eyes.

You can eat a lot of kale without interrupting weight loss progress. Kale is low in calories, with only 35 calories per 100g serving. Fresh and dried cranberries are high in antioxidants and can reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, aid digestion, and prevent urinary tract infections.

#13 Kale salad with apple

Kale salad with apples

Prefer apples? Make your kale salad with tangy apples to add crunch. Apples are a firm favorite in the fall. They have a sweet, tarty flavor and a high polyphenol content associated with improved cardiovascular risk factors by lowering cholesterol levels.

#14 Roasted beet hummus

Roasted beet hummus

You can get plenty of fiber and protein from the chickpeas in hummus, and the addition of beets adds a rich source of antioxidants. A good beet hummus recipe typically includes other beneficial ingredients, like garlic, which helps ward off oxidative damage in the body.

#15 Roasted beets with balsamic glaze

Roasted beet with balsamic glaze

Roasting off beets with balsamic delivers a sweet, caramelized dish. Beets are very nutritious and provide a rich source of folate, or folic acid, necessary for healthy red blood cells and for making DNA. They can help lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar levels.

#16 Sauteed spinach with raisins and pine nuts

Sauteed spinach with raisins & pine nuts

Spinach is one of the best vegetables for getting important nutrients. It’s full of fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. It can boost your health in numerous ways, from improving your eye health to helping prevent cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

The raisins and pine nuts add a seasonal touch while providing additional iron and magnesium. As it’s low in carbs and chock-full of vitamins, spinach is good for diabetes.

#17 Green beans and green bean casserole

Green beans and & casserole

Green beans have lots of vitamin K and a fair amount of calcium to keep your bones strong. They’re versatile, so you can add them as a side dish to most recipes. You could try a green bean casserole recipe that includes mushrooms and a parmesan sauce for a more indulgent dish.

#18 Pumpkin hummus

Pumpkin hummus

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without pumpkin, but if you want to skip the pumpkin pie this year, why not try pumpkin hummus? This colorful dish is brimming with iron and vitamin A, which support red blood cells, vision, and cell growth.

Top your hummus with pumpkin seeds to add crunch and an extra dose of antioxidants and plant protein.

#19 Broccoli salad with bacon

Broccoli salad with bacon

As broccoli is so healthy and versatile, we’ve added several broccoli dishes. It’s an essential vegetable for keeping your heart and immune system strong. Bacon provides a serving of healthy monounsaturated fat and animal-based protein. This recipe is perfect for those following the keto diet.

#20 Charcuterie board

Charcuterie board

A charcuterie board can be healthy if you make it with healthful ingredients. Try to limit highly-processed meats and opt for leaner cuts. You can fill it with fresh vegetables, nuts, and seeds for extra vitamins and minerals and incorporate other side dishes, like hummus, to aid weight loss.

#21 Roasted cranberry sauce

Roasted cranberry sauce

Store-bought cranberry sauce often has high amounts of sugar, but you can make your own healthier version. Roasted cranberry sauce is a comforting condiment loaded with antioxidant-rich cranberries. Cranberry consumption offers protection and prevention of chronic diseases.

#22 Roasted pumpkin puree

Roasted pumpkin puree

Another way to incorporate pumpkin into your meal is with a roasted pumpkin puree recipe. You can get all the pumpkin health benefits from this velvety dish, including lots of potassium and beta-carotene, which, once converted to vitamin A, protects the eyes, skin, and immune system.

Keto Thanksgiving Ideas and Recipes

If you’re following the keto diet at Thanksgiving, you might be tempted to skip the diet over the holidays. However, it’s easy to maintain your diet with a little planning, and many holiday favorites are already keto-friendly. Just remember your macros – high-fat, low-carb.

Keto dieters can enjoy turkey and classic sides, like broccoli, cauliflower, and green bean casserole. Brussels sprouts and green beans are suitable, too, in moderation. You could also try making homemade keto gravy and cranberry sauce.

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You can also try the Keto Cycle app to stay on track. This app provides a customized ketogenic meal plan based on your individual caloric needs. You can find everything you need for your Thanksgiving feast, including low-carb recipes and grocery lists.

There are lots of keto side dishes to try, with ideas such as:

  • Roasted sweet potatoes with maple syrup and bacon
  • Bacon Brussels sprouts or cheesy Brussels sprouts
  • Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus
  • Buttery cauliflower mash


What can I eat on Thanksgiving that is low-carb?

A Thanksgiving feast is full of low-carb foods that you can enjoy. Turkey is the star of the show, and it has zero total or net carbohydrates. You can also enjoy many low-carb side dishes, such as broccoli, cauliflower, roasted asparagus, and fresh green beans.

Is mashed cauliflower good for the keto diet?

Yes, mashed cauliflower is good for the keto diet. It makes a great alternative to mashed potatoes because it contains few carbs. You can enjoy this keto-friendly vegetable in numerous ways because it has only 2.97g of net carbs per 100g serving.

Can I break keto for Thanksgiving?

It’s best to avoid cheat days on keto because consuming too many carbs will kick your body out of ketosis. Fortunately, many traditional Thanksgiving foods are keto-friendly, including turkey. Plus, you can follow a keto-friendly recipe when making your favorite side dishes.

A Word From a Nutritionist

When Thanksgiving arrives, it’s easy to go wild with calorie-rich foods that throw your diet out the window. It’s perfectly ok to indulge over the holiday season, but if you want to create a healthy Thanksgiving meal, there are plenty of ways to do so – starting with the side dishes.

It’s easy to make healthy side dishes when you have nutritious ingredients. Opt for low-calorie dishes containing whole foods packed with vitamins and minerals. Vegetables, salads, soups, and savory dips are good examples of sides that add a dose of goodness to your plate.

If you are following a ketogenic diet, you can opt for keto recipes that are low in carbs and high in healthy fats. Continuing your keto diet through the holidays will ensure you stay in ketosis and continue burning excess body fat.

There’s no reason you can’t enjoy Thanksgiving and keep your health in check.


Thanksgiving is fast approaching, so now is the time to start planning your healthy Thanksgiving side dishes. Plenty of recipes available will help you squeeze in healthy foods that complement the turkey, stuffing, and all the other traditional trimmings.

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  • Proven scientific data
  • Calorie tracker
  • Customized meal plans and food prep
  • 10,000+ easy-to-make keto recipes (including vegetarian options)
  • Full workout schedule
  • Motivational tips
Start Keto Cycle Quiz
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: April 14, 2023
10 min read 1219 Views 0 Comments

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