7 healthier alternatives to the most common holiday dishes

by Julianna LaFollette****

Thanksgiving and Christmas are a time of celebration, giving thanks, enjoying friends and family, but most importantly, they are a time to eat a large meal. 

If you are like me, you tend to grab a few too many servings of not-so-healthy food and end up feeling bloated, sluggish or guilty afterward. If you want to say “screw it” and go all out because it’s a holiday, then go for it! 

But if you want to feel a little better after a big celebratory meal, I suggest trying these seven healthier alternatives to some of the most common holiday food items.


Turkey is the most common and essential meal at Thanksgiving dinner and is often a staple during Christmas – and it can be prepared numerous ways. It can be slow-cooked, roasted, deep fried, or even made in an air fryer. While turkey is already a pretty healthy meat, many times the bird is loaded with sodium and butter. If you are looking for a healthier alternative, try this Healthy Roast Turkey Crown recipe from The Washington Post, which calls for the healthier option of roasting a turkey. 

Mashed potatoes

While mashed potatoes are typically not very healthy, there are ways you can still enjoy this carb-loaded food with much less guilt. While many mashed potato recipes contain heavy cream, sour cream, and a lot of butter, this simple Greek Yogurt Mashed Potatoes recipe uses nonfat Greek yogurt and skim milk as substitutes. The Greek yogurt and nonfat milk are high in protein, lower in fat, and still makes your mashed potatoes creamy and flavorful. 


Mac-and-cheese is another staple food item for Thanksgiving meals. This is also another meal that is harder to make “healthy.” This skinny Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese recipe from The New York Times is perfect for lowering calories and carbs but is still a hit at the Thanksgiving table. This recipe calls for cauliflower instead of macaroni noodles. While you are still eating a lot of cheese, you are increasing vegetable and protein intake, and you won’t be eating an excess of “bad” carbs. (Tip: I like to add some 


Stuffing is one of my favorite dishes at a holiday meal. The breading and herbs are so flavorful, but I wondered if there was a healthier alternative that still tasted good. According to Martha Stewart, there is! Her Healthy Harvest Stuffing is a perfect way to incorporate hearty foods such as cranberries, shiitake mushrooms, apples and walnuts into a meal that usually just consists of a lot of butter, bread and some herbs. 

Green bean casserole

While this is not everybody’s favorite food at the Thanksgiving table, it still deserves to be on this list! This Healthy Green Bean Casserole uses whole wheat panko breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan cheese to add salt and flavor but also keep it more heart-healthy than the fried stuff. This recipe also uses Greek yogurt, which is high in protein and low in fat, in the filling instead of sour cream. Note that you can also make this recipe gluten free and vegan with a few easy tweaks that she recommends. 


Sweet potato casserole

Now for the sweet potato casserole. Is it a side dish? Is it a dessert? Who knows. Either way, it’s delicious. A traditional sweet potato casserole is loaded with ingredients such as butter, sugar and marshmallows. According to this Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole recipe, you don’t need them! This recipe uses coconut oil, unsweetened apple sauce, ground cinnamon, and chopped pecans to replace the not-so-healthy ingredients that are typical in this dish and seems to be a great healthy alternative. 

Pumpkin pie

Last but certainly not least is the pumpkin pie. While you may think pumpkin pie is something you just can’t make healthy, think again! This Easy Healthy Pumpkin Pie recipe claims to be refined sugar-free and dairy-free without skipping out on being smooth and flavorful. This pumpkin pie is made with real pumpkin, eggs, maple syrup, coconut flour, and of course, the spices. This leaves for a lot less guilt but still the satisfaction of dessert. 

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