Healthy Holidays

8 Healthy Holiday Side Dishes

Cut calories from your traditional feast with these recipes for delicious sides.

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By Olivia DeLong

If you’re like most people (us included!) you probably know that you’re packing in a lot of extra calories at your traditional Thanksgiving dinner. But do you know just how many? According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American is looking at over 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat.

While we don’t recommend that you completely avoid your grandmother’s made-from-scratch chocolate pie, healthier side dishes can cut some of those calories, leaving room for the pie and other must-have seasonal fixings. Click through to find delicious side dishes –- perfect for any holiday celebration. 

Sauteed Green Beans

2 / 9 Sauteed Green Beans

Green beans are easy to make, rich in health benefits and just everybody loves them -- even the kids. The pod vegetable is packed with vitamins A, C and K, along with minerals like potassium, iron and magnesium. Green beans are also a good source of the kinds of nutrients needed to keep your immune system strong -- an extra bonus during cold and flu season. This sautéed recipe takes less than 15 minutes to make.

Get the recipe from Diane Armstrong, NASM Elite Trainer


Garlic-Roasted Carrots

3 / 9 Garlic-Roasted Carrots

Saving a place for carrots on your holiday table is a smart idea. This colorful veggie is rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A -- an essential nutrient for eye health, glowing skin and a strong immune system. While creamed carrots may be a staple on your holiday menu, roasting them is a delicious, healthier way to serve them. A few minutes in the oven brings out their natural sweetness, making for a sweet and savory side.

Get the recipe 

Dijon Vinaigrette Asparagus

4 / 9 Dijon Vinaigrette Asparagus

It’s no secret that asparagus is loaded with nutrients – but the vegetable also contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that nourishes the good bacteria in your gut, helping you to fight off disease.

Switch things up a bit and include this tangy side with your turkey or ham -- it’s sure to be a hit for years to come.

Get the recipe from Joel Fuhrman, MD

Healthy Mashed Potatoes

5 / 9 Healthy Mashed Potatoes

Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes? We don’t think so. And while white potatoes tend to get a nutritional bad rap, they’re actually loaded with potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and fiber. This recipe calls for fat-free milk and light sour cream instead of whole milk and butter. You’ll cut calories without losing that creamy, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.

Get the recipe from Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD 

Twice-Baked Blue Potatoes

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Swap out gooey, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes for colorful blue spuds instead. These diet-friendly bites are sure to be an attention-getter on your holiday table -- and the potatoes contain resistant starch that acts like fiber, helping to keep you full longer. This cheesy recipe is creamy and satisfying -– and at just 50 calories apiece, you can help yourself to seconds without the guilt.

Get the recipe from Frances Largeman-Roth, RD  

Dried Fruit and Nuts Whole Grain Salad

7 / 9 Dried Fruit and Nuts Whole Grain Salad

Chopped veggies, nuts, whole grains and dried fruits add a variety of palate-pleasing flavors and textures to this antioxidant-rich dish. Choose your favorite base (brown rice, whole grain pasta, couscous or bulgur will do) and introduce a new way of side-dishing this holiday season.

Get the recipe from Kat Barefield, MS, RD  

Spinach and Sweet Potato Risotto

8 / 9 Spinach and Sweet Potato Risotto

It's hard to imagine Thanksgiving without whipped sweet potatoes. But this rich veggie and risotto dish is a more figure-friendly way to keep them on the menu. While sweet potatoes and spinach are both rich in antioxidants, the vibrant colors will add festivity to your table and a flavor that will impress.

Get the recipe

Herbed Barley and Lentils

9 / 9 Herbed Barley and Lentils

Barley may not be on your radar, but it should be -- the grain is a great source of fiber, magnesium, iron and beta-glucan, and it can help lower cholesterol. And lentils are well known for their iron, fiber and protein content. If you’re looking for a hearty vegetarian option, this warm, flavorful grain-legume combination is sure to hit the spot.

Get the recipe from Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD