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Top 5 Healthy Side Dishes for Thanksgiving

Updated on December 10, 2012

Eat Well - Look Good!

When you eat a healthy diet, you're bound to look better and feel rejuvenated. You may also live longer, with less disease. The following easy recipes for side dishes low in ingredients that can hurt us, like sugar, salt, and fat and can lead us into becoming increasingly beautiful people with increased health.

Not only are these recipes heart healthy and appropriate for many diabetic diets, these side dishes are delicious and and add a bit of a change to the holiday table or any meal of the year

Fast Garlic Broccoli

Serves 8


  • Large pan of boiling water, salted with Kosher or Sea Salt
  • 4 cups of broccoli florets
  • ½ teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced shallots or tender young green onions
  • ½ teaspoon ground red pepper or pepper flakes
  • Cooking spray


  • Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for 2 minutes, only until it is tender-crisp.
  • Drain the broccoli well and plunge into cold water for 1 minute to stop cooking.
  • Cooking spray a skillet and turn the heat up to medium.
  • Add the garlic and shallots to the skillet and cook for only 10 seconds.
  • Remove from heat, add in the broccoli and red pepper and toss to coat.
  • Salt and pepper to taste and place in a serving dish.

15 calories, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram carbohydrate

Tender Green Beans & Cranberries

Serves 8


  • Fresh tender green beans:10 oz.
  • Kosher salt or sea salt for boiling water for blanching beans (I use spring water)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup pecan halves
  • 1 red onion sliced in thin rings


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tblsp red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar; 1 Tblsp lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1 teaspoon honey; salt and pepper.


  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the green beans for about 2 minutes.
  • Beans should still be crunchy -- drain them and plunge into a bowl of ice water for 60 seconds.
  • Drain beans again and spread on paper towels on a clean countertop to dry, then slice in half diagonally.
  • Put sliced beans into large salad bowl; add cranberries, onion rings, and pecans.
  • Drizzle the dressing by single tablespoonsful over yegetables and toss after each spoonful. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

134 calories, 12 grams fat with 2 grams saturated fat, 13 mg sodium, 6 grams carbohydrates

Broccoli Soup with Fennel

Serves 8


  • 5 Cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 Cups water
  • 6 Cups broccoli florets
  • 4 Cups chopped fennel
  • 1 Cup sliced leeks (white green sections)
  • 4 Tablespoons fennel leaves/fronds
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and salt to taste
  • 1 Cup milk or broth. You can substitute 2% milk as well.


  • In a large pan, bring the broth and water together to a boil.
  • Add broccoli, fennel, fennel fronds, leek, tarragon, and pepper and raise heat to the boil again. Immediately reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 40 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  • Turn off heat and cool the soup about 10 minutes.
  • Pour the soup into a blender, cover, and blend until smooth.
  • Re-season with salt and add more broth or milk for a thick soup that pours easily unto bowls. Reheat for 3-4 minutes in the pan and serve.

When made with vegetable broth – 72 calories, 1 gram fat, 10 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber

Rice and Cranberries

Serves 8


  • ½ cup raw pistachios or almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 scallions or green onions, white and light green parts, sliced thin
  • 2 medium sized carrots, fined chopped
  • 2 ¼ cups long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 5 cups hot spring water. Vegetable stock or chicken broth may be substituted.
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped parsley


This recipe can be made a couple of hours ahead of time and held safely at room temperature. A 10-minute reheating will make it ready to serve.

  • Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and pour in the pistachios (or almonds).
  • Toss lightly for 2 - 3 minutes until light brown and place the nuts into a small bowl and set aside.
  • Place oil into a medium sized pot over medium heat and sauté scallions for 2 minutes, until just soft.
  • Quickly raise heat to high, add rice and sauté for 3 minutes, until coated and light brown.
  • Add cherries and stir well, then reduce heat to medium, add hot water/ broth, stir with a fork, then bring to the boil.
  • Immediately cover the pot and reduce the to low to simmer 20 minutes.
  • The liquid should be completely absorbed and rice, tender.
  • Add the carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes longer.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, add parsley and pistachios/almonds on top of the cooked rice and serve at once.

270 calories, 8 grams fat with 1 gram saturated fat, 200 mg sodium, 46 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber.

Spinach and Shallots

Serves 8


  • 6 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 shallots or tender young green onion, sliced thin; 2 or more additional shallots for garnish.
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tblsp unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice


  • In a large, heavy pot heat 4 Tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Sauté shallots 3 - 4 minutes, just until tender. Don't over cook. 
  • Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and sauté for 1 minute and then remove the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
  • In the same large pot you first used, over medium heat, add remaining oil and the butter.
  • Next, add in half of the spinach and push the leaves down and turn with kitchen tongs.
  • Cover the pot and steam 2 - 3 minutes, turning spinach with tongs after the first 60 seconds.
  • Add the remaining spinach and turn it with tongs in the same manner.
  • Next, cover the pot again and cook 2 minutes, just until spinach slightly wilts.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Uncover and cook the spinach for 60 seconds while turning with tongs. The spinach will be wilted and bright green.
  • Drain excess liquid, then remove spinach with a large slotted spoon.
  • Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with lemon zest & juice. Toss well and re-season.
  • Serve with a garnish of thinly sliced shallots sprinkled on top.

130 calories, 9 grams fat with 2 grams saturated fat, 380 mg sodium, 15 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber

Healthy Eating Poll

What is your Favorite Vegetable?

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    • profile image

      manomoney 7 years ago

      thanks for the good tips its worth to preserve food values keep it up

    • elisabethkcmo profile image

      elisabethkcmo 8 years ago from Just East of Oz

      my favorite vegetable, asparagus, I know, weird

      your recipes are much healthier than mine, thats for sure, and they sound just as good!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I suppose you could fast the day before a holiday meal. :)

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 9 years ago from Texas

      My problem is that I don't mind the vegetables at all, but I like the desserts just as much, and on Thanksgiving they're all fair game.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hi RGraf banana writer! - I'm with you on this - I feel more enrgy when I eat these types of dishes and also skip meat a couple days a week.

      Rochelle - I agree with you as well. I generally do not like lima beans unless they are either fresh or frozen and in a rice dish with say, onions and peppers and mushrooms. It's the butter beans I cannot swallow, because they are too, too starchy for me.

      Thanks for the comments!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      I like all of them. I don't care for plain Lima beans, but I might if they were were "done up" in a recipe.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you for these alternatives. I'm trying to find healthier ways to eat.