A Guilt-Free Thanksgiving: Recipe Ideas For A Healthy Holiday

In the United States, Thanksgiving is just a couple days away. Just the thought of it adds a few extra inches to our waistlines. Most of us don’t know what the word “moderation” means when it comes to this most gluttonous of holidays.

I recently got a one of Robb Wolf’s newsletter articles where the author, Amy, talked about the severe amounts of crap we typically ingest on Thanksgiving. She pointed out that:

An average Thanksgiving meal…contains the equivalent of nearly 1 cup of sugar!!

This one meal has the potential to set you back about 3000 calories too! Putting that into perspective it would take a 160 pound person 4 hours of running, 5 hours of swimming, or a 30 mile walk to undo 3000 calories!

I’d been trying to put a short e-book of fitness-friendly recipes for you, but I didn’t come up with the idea soon enough to actually get it done (in a way that I felt comfortable releasing it) in time for Thanksgiving. But I didn’t want the work I had done to go to waste.

So as a result, I’ll post them as ideas to get YOU thinking and inventing your own recipes this year. Most of them are both slow-carb and paleo friendly, but each of them could be modified slightly to meet your own needs. Some of the tastier ones won’t be slow-carb (because of the honey, generally), but they are way healthier than just straight cheating. To borrow from Amy again, “if you’re going to cheat, cheat smart.”

Please enjoy!

Side Dishes

Breadless Stuffing

Stuffing is one of the biggest culprits getting processed carbs into our system. Why not just use vegetables and tubers?

The recipe I’m working on uses cauliflower, broccoli, and yucca root (leave out the yucca to make it more slow-carb) to absorb the turkey juices the much same way bread does. It’ll have sausage, onion, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, celery, and several herbs.

Green Bean Casserole

We always have a green bean casserole, but it usually is filled with a creamy sauce and covered in fried onions. Those are the two parts I wanted to change.

My wife made a mushroom sauce a few weeks ago that had mustard, onions, garlic, and some herbs and spices. It was completely delicious with chicken, and that is what I’m going to use with the beans. I’m going to play around with the onions, but might just “crust” it with almond meal or just slivered almonds.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Just because russet potatoes are white and Yukon gold’s are, well, whitish-gold doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a tasty mash this year.

I make mashed sweet potatoes the same way I’d make mashed white potatoes. Instead of regular milk, try some organic, free-range heavy whipping cream or some full-fat coconut milk (unsweetened).

If you want to jazz it up a bit, use cinnamon and nutmeg!

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry’s are among the most antioxidantiest berries (yes, that’s a word – now), so they can be really good for you. But that’s not what we usually eat for Thanksgiving, is it? Stay away from the canned stuff like the plague! Almost all of them are going to have added sugars.

You can make a really delicious sauce yourself, and almost all the work is done by your stove. If you buy legit cranberries, you can mix them with an array of things that will give you a really tasty sauce. Use a splash of honey or even just other fruits (apple cider sounds good) for offsetting the tartness of the cranberry.

To invent a great recipe, head to a recipe site and search for cranberry sauce. Then browse them for ideas on what you can add. Pull together the ingredients you like and leave out the crap you don’t. Invent a new “heirloom” cranberry sauce recipe this Thanksgiving!

Roasted Veggies

The idea of roasting wintery vegetables just makes me happy inside. Probably the easiest thing to make, it can also be among the most delicious – and is definitely the most customizable. Dump all your veggies in a baking dish, toss them with some olive oil, rosemary, oregano, salt, and pepper, and bake until soft.

Here’s the list I’m using: carrots, sweet potatoes, yucca root, parsnips, onions, asparagus, beets, brussel sprouts, garlic, and broccoli. Can’t wait!

Carrot and Parsnip Casserole

I’ve never made this, and I haven’t completely invented the recipe yet (which is why the ebook hasn’t come out), but I’ll tell you my idea and maybe you can run with it.

I’ve had a carrot souffle sort of thing before, and that’s the image I was going with. I guess it could be compared to corn pudding. Boil the carrots and parsnips like you would potatoes, and mash them. Add in some garlic, seasonings, and eggs and mix well. Throw it in a baking dish and sprinkle some almond meal on top for a crispy crust.

Sounds good in my head. I just need to give it a shot. 🙂 Let me know if you get one to come out nicely!


Pumpkin Pie

The main dessert we’ll be having this year isn’t my recipe at all, but I wish it were! Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo has an amazing pumpkin pie recipe.

The recipe is too long to post here, but you can get it from Sarah’s Thanksgiving recipe post.

Baked Apples

Another dessert that we’ll be enjoying a bit more these next couple months are baked apples. The concept comes from my grandmother, but Greg Everett reminded me of it when he mentioned it on the Paleo Solution Podcast. It’s so easy you can do it in your microwave.

Put some apple slices into a bowl and sprinkle some cinnamon on it. If you want to get a little fancy, mix about ½ tbsp clarified butter with ¼ cup almond meal and put that on top. That topping should be enough for 2 apples.

Microwave it all for about 2 minutes, and you’ll have an awesome apple crumble to nosh on after dinner.

Apple Tart

This is a late-coming extra, but that’s only because my wife made it last night randomly. She made a crust using almond flour, an egg, and some cinnamon. On top she layered apple slices and sprinkled more cinnamon. She may have squeezed some lime juice on top (I’ll ask and edit this post with more specifics). As it baked, the apples dried out a little so their flavor was more enhanced. It was awesome!


Just to round this off a bit, I did want to mention some drinks that are way healthier than their more expensive, northwest-influenced options.

Stephanie Greunke linked to some really great Thanksgiving drink recipes on Robb Wolf’s blog.

First, we have a Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations. You can get that recipe in his Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving ebook.

Second, we’ve got a “primal eggnog” recipe from Mark Sisson’s blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. All you need is a few egg yolks, coconut milk, a teaspoon of maple syrup (honey might work well too), vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon and nutmeg! I’m going to give this a try this weekend for sure!

My question to you: what is your favorite healthy recipe for Thanksgiving? Leave it in the comments for the rest of us to enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving from Finding My Fitness!

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