My Thanksgiving philosophy, not just as a foodie but as a dietitian, has always been this: If you're going to overdo it, do it with the foods you really love.
Yet, after checking out results from Instacart's recent Thanksgiving survey, I've realized that I don't do a great job of that on Turkey Day. And I'm not alone. According to the survey, "68% of Americans dislike a classic Thanksgiving food but eat it anyway because of tradition." Some of those top hated-but-still-eaten dishes were surprising: Green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
If you're part of the 68% that's not too crazy about one of these classics, then you're in luck. I've put together some alternatives to green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie, while also being careful to not disrupt Grandma's traditional menu too much. And because all of these recipes came from the Cooking Light test kitchen, you know they'll taste good and be mindfully nutritious.
If You’re Not a Green Bean Casserole Fan:
Skip the can of cream soup and try one of these green bean alternatives.
Green Beans with Bacon
Green beans sautéed in bacon drippings with shallots and garlic are topped with bacon crumbles and toasted pecans. It sounds over-the-top yet is lower in sodium, calories, and fat than most green bean casserole versions.
Pesto Caesar Salad
I added green salad to our holiday lineup a few years ago. Crisp lettuce is a nice accompaniment to heavier sides, and everyone always loves a good Caesar. This one gets an extra flavor boost from jarred pesto.
Broccoli with Cheese Sauce
Casserole lovers will quickly forget the beans are missing when you show up with a homemade cheese sauce. Plus, this is quick 10-minute dish appeals to all ages.
Green Beans with Dried Cranberries and Hazelnuts
Blanch the green beans the day before to cut down on Thanksgiving Day work. Dried cranberries add a sweet, tart bite that balances the buttery hazelnuts perfectly.
If You’re Not a Sweet Potato Casserole Fan:
Consider one of these sides.
Black Pepper and Herb Mashed Potatoes
Don't waste carbs or plate space on marshmallow-topped casserole if you don't love it. Go for savory carbs instead with this quick-and-easy mash that also has some extra options you can add, like bacon and cheese.
Most of these sides are available to schedule into your Cooking Light Diet meal plans! For more information, subscribe today at CookingLightDiet.com.
Buttery Roasted Cauliflower
The cauliflower trend doesn't seem to be going anywhere, and I've found that cutting back on carbs with this veggie is actually pretty tasty. In fact, roasting and then drizzling with a little butter even makes them worthy of the Thanksgiving table.
Spinach and Feta Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust
An unexpected crowd-pleaser, this cheese and egg-based dish uses thinly sliced sweet potato slices as its crust. Substitute white potato slices if desired. Either way, it's gluten free and a nice change from sugary casserole.
Potato and Leek Gratin
Layers of thinly sliced potatoes and sautéed leeks are topped with milk and two cheeses to create a creamy scalloped potato-style dish.
If You’re Not a Pumpkin Pie Fan:
Craving something sweet that doesn't involve the Great Pumpkin? Upgrade to one of these.
Chocolate Walnut Tart
Chocolate lovers: Here's a riff on pecan pie that's made for you. It's rich, gooey, and chocolatey. Use a refrigerated pie crust to make in a tart pan or pie plate.
Spiced Caramel Bundt Cake
A slice of homemade caramel cake is one of my favorite indulgences, but baking and icing a layer cake is labor-intensive. So a much easier—but just as decadent—alternative is this gluten-free Bundt-cake version that's topped with a caramel sauce drizzle.
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
I'm not a big fan of pie, except in this case where it's turned into ice cream. This treat gets bonus points in my book too, because no ice cream maker is required.
Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is lead dietitian for the Cooking Light Diet and author of Meals that Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less. A culinary nutrition expert known for her ability to simplify food and nutrition information, Carolyn received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award. Her work is regularly featured in or on respective websites for Cooking Light, RealSimple, Parents, Health, EatingWell, Allrecipes, MyFitnessPal, eMeals, Rally Health, and the American Heart Association. You can follow her on Instagram @realfoodreallife_rd or on carolynwilliamsrd.com.
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