Thanksgiving is one of the most special holidays to me. It’s such a beautiful time of gratefulness without the distractions of presents. I love spending the day with my family while enjoying a seemingly endless amount of flavorful and delicious food. I’m not sure about you, but Thanksgiving also has big memories tied to the food that comes along with it. It seems like everyone has that one specific food that “it’s just not Thanksgiving without.” We often sacrifice the healthfulness of our food for the sake of tradition or nostalgia, but it doesn’t have to be that way! With that in mind, I’m sharing my favorite healthy Thanksgiving swaps that everyone seems to love.
Big brands tend to market their Thanksgiving foods as the best way to go. Store aisles are packed with holiday staples like canned cranberry sauce, instant gravy, and boxed mashed potatoes, making it easy to just grab and go. I’m here to encourage you to resist the urge. Let’s continue to always nourish our bodies with everything we put in it, even on holidays when it’s easy to feast on junk. Keep reading for my top healthy Thanksgiving swaps.
Easy Homemade, Healthy Thanksgiving Swaps
It can be intimidating when browsing the grocery store to know what’s important to focus on, and how to make healthier choices. Reading lists of ingredients is exhausting, and it’s almost impossible to understand every single one. Plus, most Thanksgiving foods are better when they’re homemade anyway—so put down the box and bust out your mixing bowl. Here is my list of homemade recipe swaps that will make your Thanksgiving more nutritional and honestly, more delicious.
Instead of instant mashed potatoes, make homemade mashed potatoes
- Instant mashed potatoes contain inflammatory oils, sugar, sodium caseinate, artificial colors, and a lot of preservatives. I still am sure why all of these ingredients need to be included in a food that has exactly what it is in its name!
- Grab your potatoes and wash, dice, boil, and mash them. Then, mix them with butter, milk, and salt, and serve them hot. It’s honestly not much more work than the boxed version.
Instead of canned cranberry sauce, make homemade cranberry sauce
- Canned cranberry sauce often uses GMO high fructose corn syrup and may contain BPA from the can. Swap them out for my delicious homemade cranberry sauce.
- Combine 1/2 cup maple syrup with 1/2 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Add your cranberries, 1 tsp of orange zest, and a bit of orange juice. Boil the mixture for 10 minutes until the cranberries have burst and are soft. Let cool, mash them a bit, and serve alongside your turkey.
Instead of using Cool Whip, make homemade whipping cream
- Cool Whip lists high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, sodium caseinate, polysorbate 60, and sorbitan monostearate (synthetic wax) in its ingredients list. Do you really want to be eating those things?
- The homemade version is so easy! Simply mix together 1 pint of heavy whipping cream, 1 tbsp coconut sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla. Whip the mixture for two minutes or until soft peaks begin to form.
Instead of boxed stuffing, make homemade stuffing
- Boxed stuffing is often made with enriched wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, hydrolyzed soy protein, sugar, and caramel color—yuck!
- My homemade version made with sourdough bread is in my Savory Seasons Cookbook. It’s definitely a recipe you don’t want to miss; with a hint of tang from the sourdough and nourishing bone broth and sausage, it’s sure to be a favorite.
Instead of using margarine or butter spreads, try grass-fed butter
- Margarine/butter spreads contain soybean oil, vegetable oil, hydrogenated oils, mono and dyglycerides, artificial flavors, soy lecithin, and natural flavor.
- Try my grass-fed herb butter recipe instead. Use Kerigold Grass-Fed Butter and whip one stick in a bowl. Add 1/2 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp parsley, 1 tsp thyme, and/or 1 tsp basil or rosemary. Spoon the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper and roll it up. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving. Your guests will thank you.
Instead of instant gravy, make homemade turkey gravy (GF!)
- Instant gravy has silicon dioxide, wheat, caramel color, and natural flavors.
- For the homemade version, start by straining your turkey juices and setting aside the liquid. Combine 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp arrowroot over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add strained turkey drippings into the mix and bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk. When thickened and smooth, add salt, sage, and thyme to taste.
Instead of green bean casserole, make sautéed green beans
- Traditional green bean casseroles often have vegetable oil, natural flavors, preservatives, and dextrose.
- Instead, start with fresh trimmed green beans in a large skillet with 1 to 2 tbsp of avocado oil over medium heat. Stir often and add garlic, sea salt, and red pepper flakes (optional). Add some water and cook until green beans are just tender.
Costco Favorites: Healthy Thanksgiving Swaps Edition
Costco is a great place to find high quality foods, but it can be tricky to navigate the enormous store. Here are a few of my favorite finds that will make your Thanksgiving even easier.
1. Kerigold Grass-Fed Butter
- The nutritional makeup of grass-fed butter is significantly better than traditional butter. Grass-fed butter is 26% richer in omega 3’s, 500% richer in CLA, and contains more vitamin A, beta carotene, and vitamin K2 than standard butter. I use this butter for gravy, potatoes, stuffing, and on rolls!
2. Ground turkey
- Most homemade stuffing recipes call for sage sausage, which can be difficult to find. I replace it with ground turkey rubbed with sage seasoning. You can’t tell the difference in taste, but your body will know the difference with only two ingredients compared to the tons typically found in conventional sausage!
3. Fresh cranberries
- By avoiding canned cranberries and going fresh, you can cut out high amounts of high fructose corn syrup, and the BPA exposure from the can.
4. Pacific Bone Broth
- I use this in stuffing, gravy, potatoes and more. The Pacific brand has no added sugar and has the best price on bone broth you will find. Be cautious when shopping for bone broth to look for hidden sugars.
5. Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers and Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips
- These are great to have on hand for the wait before the big dinner. Serve them with a homemade spinach and artichoke dip or a cranberry cream cheese dip to keep your kiddos and adults happy until the main course.
I know that holiday season can be overwhelming, so don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself reaching for the canned cranberries. Count your victories that you decided to mash your own potatoes this year and got the grass-fed butter instead! It’s the small, healthy swaps that can start to make a difference for your family this Thanksgiving.
Building habits takes time, so start with one choice and go from there. Follow a few (or all!) of these tips and you’ll be well on your way to having your most nourishing Thanksgiving yet. I’m so thankful for all of you and I hope that you found this post beneficial!