The holiday season is upon us! What a wonderful opportunity to start new traditions and infuse more nutrition and flavor into Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
Use this article to plan your Thanksgiving meal and write your grocery list. We will cover what to avoid (processed foods), shopping tips, plant-based options, and healthy snack ideas.
Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods
When looking for healthy dinner ideas this holiday season, consider getting back into the kitchen and cooking from scratch. This means utilizing whole, unprocessed, and often fresh options that bring more flavor and nutrition.
Ultra-processed foods make up most of the American diet. They are found in boxes, packages, and down the center aisles of the grocery store. They contain dozens of ingredients, many of which you may not recognize, and serve as flavor, color, preservatives, and other chemicals. You can’t recreate ultra-processed foods in your home.
Shopping Store Perimeter = Less Processed Foods
You’ll be guided to choose more whole, unprocessed options for your Thanksgiving meal when you shop around the grocery store perimeter. Start in the produce section and choose potatoes, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, brussels sprouts, green beans, fresh cranberries, apples, and other items on your Thanksgiving grocery list.
As you continue around the perimeter, you’ll find dairy and eggs, meat and seafood, freshly baked bread, and a bulk foods section for nuts and beans.
You may be able to create your entire menu without venturing into the center aisles for processed food.
Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas
It isn’t Thanksgiving without considering what will be at the center of your table. Consider serving a traditional turkey entree and vegetarian alternative, plus vegetable sides that everyone enjoys.
Turkey Protein Plus Vegetables (Non-Vegetarian)
You might need to pick up your groceries ahead of time to get the best turkey. We recommend a pasture-raised or organic option when available.
After Thanksgiving, add the leftover bones to a large stock pot (or crock pot) with carrots, onions, celery, and bay leaves. Fill with water and gently simmer for hours to make turkey bone broth.
Lentils, Beans, Soy Plus Vegetables (Vegetarian)
Turkey protein isn’t the only protein option for Thanksgiving. Consider an entirely plant-based feast instead or offer vegetarian options to your guests.
Legumes, such as lentils or soybeans, make a hearty, protein-rich main dish for Thanksgiving and work well with all the traditional holiday flavors like rosemary, thyme, garlic, and sage. Beans are a whole food, inexpensive, and a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Healthy Thanksgiving Snack Ideas
Your healthy grocery list can include Thanksgiving snacks to serve as appetizers or tide you over while cooking. In addition, consider planning and preparing healthy desserts to end your Thanksgiving meal with.
For snacks and desserts, we recommend thinking about protein, fat, and fiber to help balance blood sugar, increase fullness, and provide optimal nutrition.
Fruits and Nuts
Thanksgiving snack ideas include:
- Plant-based dips such as hummus or cashew cheese with seed crackers and veggies
- Mixed roasted nuts (look for dry roasted or make your own)
- Charcuterie board – with vegan cheese, olives, gluten-free crackers, artichoke hearts, fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, Scott’s Protein Balls (cut in half)
- Apple slices drizzled with almond butter and cinnamon
- Scott’s Pumpkin Spice Balls
Most classic Thanksgiving desserts can be upgraded with higher-quality ingredients and less sugar. Consider making pie crusts with almond flour, substituting coconut milk for cream, or seeking out plant-based recipes. Your local bakery may have gluten-free or vegan options as well.
When it comes to planning for Thanksgiving, think outside of the box. Choose recipes that utilize whole, healthy food, plant-based options, and fresh flavors. Don’t forget to plan for healthy snacks and desserts too.