UVA Health System Blog

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Happy Healthy Thanksgiving: A Fresher Take on Some Holiday Favorites

On November 17, 2011 | At 8:55 am

Family Enjoying Heart-Healthy Thanksgiving DinnerIn my family, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, collards (cooked with ham, of course) and the traditional turkey. In the past few years, we’ve added eggnog as an appetizer.

But traditional Thanksgiving foods, even vegetables, can be loaded with calories, sugar, sodium and fat. According to an article on the Club Red website (UVA’s heart-healthy program for women), a typical Thanksgiving meal can range from 2,000 to 7,000 calories. And Thanksgiving is often the beginning of a month filled with parties and tasty treats at every turn.

Want to enjoy traditional Thanksgiving foods (and leftovers!) without eating the unhealthiest meal you’ve had all year? We’ve gathered recipes from Club Red’s collection and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to create this healthier Thanksgiving menu to go with your main dish.


Festive Egg-less Eggnog

Sparkling Peach Spritzer


Crostini with Spinach and Goat Cheese

Honey Ginger Fruit Dip (goes great with local apples!)

Date-Nut Balls


Cinnamon-Glazed Baby Carrots

Candied Yams

Green Beans with Almonds and Garlic

Roasted Root Vegetables with Maple-Cider Vinaigrette

Grilled Asparagus

Red Bliss Potatoes Stuffed with Chive-Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Side Dishes

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Couscous with Carrots, Walnuts and Raisins

Parmesan Rice and Pasta Pilaf


Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl

Crunchy Pumpkin Pie

Frosted Cake

Indulge – in Moderation

Angie Hasemann, a registered dietitian at the UVA Children’s Fitness Clinic, offers a few more tips to keep Thanksgiving healthier.

  • Indulge – but get back to your normal eating habits quickly. “No one’s going to be perfect all the time,” Hasemann says.
  • Pack leftovers in single-serving containers, so you’ll have a perfect portion size ready.
  • Look for chances to make dishes healthier. For example, you can add more green beans to a traditional green bean casserole recipe.
  • Be careful of drinks, which often have surprisingly high calorie counts.

Finally, Hasemann suggests doing active activities with your family: “How often do you have enough people around for a softball game or tag?”

Did you try any of our recipes? Leave a comment and let us know how you liked it!

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