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Healthy Thanksgiving side dishes

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Eat on the lighter side

Thanksgiving may be synonymous with heaping plates of food, but you can lighten up your holiday feast by serving gorgeous side dishes showcasing bright colored fall vegetables and high fiber whole grains. Partnered up with skinless turkey breast, these healthy Thanksgiving side dishes will give you a scrumptiously balanced holiday meal.

Wild rice Thanksgiving side dish

Roasted beets and acorn squash, ricotta, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette

This scrumptious healthy Thanksgiving side dish is inspired by Chef Nick Strawhecker of Dante in Omaha, Nebraska. Chef Strawhecker's version features homemade ricotta, but you can swap in a high-quality store-bought ricotta. Beets and squash are nutrient-dense powerhouses that also give your Thanksgiving meal a bright side of color.

Ingredients:

  • 6 small beets, trimmed, scrubbed
  • 1 large acorn squash, halved, seeds and membranes scooped out
  • Olive oil for roasting and drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups fresh arugula

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place beets in a saute pan, drizzle generously with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast, tossing often, until beets are fork tender. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and set aside – this will help with the peeling process.
  3. Meanwhile, quarter squash and place in a second saute pan. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until squash is fork tender. Use a knife to remove peel and cut into bite-sized chunks.
  4. Peel beets and cut into bite-sized chunks. Place beets and squash in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with vinegar. Toss to coat.
  5. Smear a little ricotta onto each of the eight serving plates. Arrange beets and squash around ricotta. Place arugula in the bowl that was used to combine beets and squash. Drizzle with more olive oil and vinegar, tossing to combine.
  6. Transfer arugula to each serving plate and season with salt and pepper to serve.

Wild rice shiitake stuffing with dried cherries and toasted almonds

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups wild rice, rinsed, soaked overnight, drained
  • 6 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 ounces mixed shiitake mushrooms, trimmed, sliced
  • 6 to 8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pot over high heat, combine rice and water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Drain off any extra liquid, if present.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender.
  4. Stir in garlic and salt and continue to stir for one minute. Add herbs and cranberries, stirring to combine.
  5. When rice is done, combine vegetable mixture and rice in the prepared baking dish. Add almonds and season with pepper, tossing again to mix well.
  6. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.

Moroccan-spiced sweet potato medley

One of the best ways to add flavorful excitement to a holiday meal is by replacing the usual Thanksgiving recipes with dishes that boast novel ingredients. This healthy Thanksgiving side dish takes ordinary sweet potatoes and elevates their appeal with warm Moroccan spices.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2-1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Plain whole milk yogurt

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is softened. Add garlic, coriander, cumin, cayenne and cardamom, and cook, stirring, for one minute.
  2. Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vinegar and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding a bit more water if the skillet gets dry, until sweet potatoes are tender.
  3. Stir in currants and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with dollops of yogurt.

More Thanksgiving side dish ideas

Healthy Thanksgiving side dishes
Out of the ordinary side dishes for Thanksgiving
Taste of the South Thanksgiving side dishes

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