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Holidays are about moderation mixed with a little bit of indulgence. While most culinary staples (i.e. no one is messing with mom’s green bean casserole recipe) are a given, we’re willing to give the healthier versions of other dishes a chance. Read on for the Thanksgiving side dishes we’ll be making plus, their healthy counterparts, to balance out the decadent meal that is sure to come.


Macaroni and cheese

There’s a whole lot of cheese in this classic mac version from Better Homes and Gardens: Swiss, cheddar, and gouda, to name a few. We guarantee it will be an instant favorite. 

Since pretty much everyone loves mac and cheese, there are loads of healthier alternatives including; versions that sub in cauliflower for macaroni, one that gets its creaminess from Greek yogurt, and a version from Sally’s Baking Addiction, which adds kale and butternut squash to up the veggie content.

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Brussels sprouts

Garlic parmesan roasted Brussels sprouts from Crunchy Creamy Sweet are guaranteed to convert the skeptics this year. Tossed with seasoned breadcrumbs and baked until brown, these crisp sprouts aren’t too sinful. If filling your plate with fresh green goodness is your Thanksgiving M.O., give this shredded Brussels Sprouts and kale salad with a zesty lemon dressing from Just a Taste a spin.

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Photography by EAT THE GAINS

Cranberry sauce

Sugar, orange juice, and a fragrant cinnamon stick give this cranberry sauce from Mom on Time Out a traditional and tasty flavor—plus, it lacks the jellified texture of the canned variety. 

If you want to save the sugar rush for dessert, try out this paleo-approved homemade sauce from Eat the Gains. It only has three ingredients: cranberries, pineapple, and apple, and can be made days ahead and stored in the fridge.

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Photography by JULIA’S ALBUM


Butternut squash and spinach lasagna from Julia’s Album will have vegetarian dinner guests cheering: finally, a hearty, delicious, and super cheesy veg-friendly option. For a lighter alternative, swap in cottage cheese for the ricotta and add more spinach.

Alternatively, you may go for a more basic side (with a little spicy kick) and make Country Cleaver’s chili lime roasted acorn squash

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Photography by COOKING CLASSY

Sweet potatoes

If dessert masquerading itself as a vegetable side dish is your thing, look no further than this luscious browned butter sweet potato casserole topped with stripes of crunch corn flakes, chopped pecans, and mini marshmallows from Cooking Classy. 

Or give this vegan version from Jessica in the Kitchen a go: it incorporates maple syrup to enhance the sweet potatoes’ natural sweetness and also features a crunchy nutty topping, but only has a fraction of the calories of a more traditional casserole.

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Buttery and rich, apple pecan stuffing from Homemade Interest would definitely get you invited back to any holiday gathering; it’s the perfect combo of sweet and savory with carrots, celery, pecans, and Granny Smith apples, baked until browned. 

Or, try your hand at this quinoa-based walnut and kale stuffing from Healthy Seasonal Recipes, which incorporates holiday flavors such as fresh sage and thyme.

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Green bean casserole

Green bean casserole purists will love High Heels and Grills’ version, which uses fresh ingredients like mushrooms and green beans instead of the canned variety. Topped with plenty of French fried onions, the casserole will get eagerly scooped up by fans of the traditional. 

Consider focusing on the vegetables that are the foundation of the dish and make Serious Eats’s sautéed green beans with mushrooms and caramelized cipollini onions.

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My Evil Twin’s Kitchen’s jalapeno cheddar cornbread will bring the heat to your holiday table, thanks to a healthy dose of finely chopped peppers and some grated sharp cheddar. Kitchen’s Stewardship’s version keeps it simple, focusing on whole wheat flour and cornmeal with just a little honey to add some sweetness. 

See more noteworthy Thanksgiving recipes:

Thanksgiving Dishes You Won’t Believe Are Vegan
The Make-Ahead Appetizers We’ll Be Serving on Thanksgiving
Sweet and Savory Fall Pies That Aren’t Pumpkin

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