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4 Healthy Twists On Your Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and that means so is the season of packing on a few extra pounds. However, your big holiday meal doesn't have to add anything to your waistline if you make a few smart substitutions. In fact, with just a few changes, you can enjoy all the same holiday flavors while saving hundreds of calories. Plus, you'll still be spending the holiday with your loved ones, and isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? If you're looking to cut a few calories, here are a few recipes and tips to lighten your table without losing the taste.

Candied Yams

Candied Yams
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Candied yams are always a hit at any Thanksgiving table, but all that sugar can add as much as 400 extra calories per serving. Instead of marshmallows, use pure maple syrup as a glaze for the yams or sweet potatoes. The trick is to roast your sweet potatoes ahead of time with a little bit of healthy oil and some salt and pepper. Do this first step a couple of hours ahead of time, to make the cooking process even easier on Thanksgiving. Then, when you're ready, simply drizzle some pure maple syrup over the potatoes, sprinkle with a few pieces of butter and roast again for about 20 minutes. Use only as much as is needed to coat your potatoes. Since you aren't adding all that extra sugar with marshmallows, you'll save quite a few calories, and pure maple syrup has a lot of antioxidants and other, much more healthy properties.

Green Bean Casserole

You don't want to know what the calorie count is of the traditional green bean casserole. All that fatty cream of mushroom soup and those fried onions add tons of calories to your meal, but there are a few steps you can take to make a healthy and delicious alternative. Try this recipe for green bean and mushroom casserole instead, and save those extra calories for your dessert.

Green Bean Mushrooms
Photo Credit Thinkstock


  • One pound green beans, trimmed
  • One pound yellow wax beans, trimmed
  • Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Two cloves minced garlic
  • 8 ounces wild mushrooms (try porchini or oyster), trimmed and sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Boil both types of beans until tender, about three to five minutes and drain.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat, add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.
  3. Add mushrooms and sautee until most of the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Add the cooked beans to the mushrooms and stir until heated through. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Creamed Corn

You may think that creamed corn is totally off the table if you want to have a healthy Thanksgiving, but the simple addition of coconut milk adds all the cream you need and even makes this great dish a totally vegan option. The flavors here balance very well, so even your carnivorous friends will love this tasty side dish.

Cream Corn
Photo Credit Thinkstock


  • Two cups frozen corn
  • One can coconut milk (15 ounces)
  • One tablespoon scallions, chopped
  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper


  1. Combine the coconut milk and corn in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and top with scallions

Baked Apples

It's tough to imagine Thanksgiving without apple pie, but you can substitute some baked apples and just the right seasoning to get that same flavor with a lot less sugar, carbs, calories and fat. You can make these ahead of time, then just warm them up in the oven right before you serve. You can even top them with a little whipped cream and you won't be adding that many calories to the dish, plus it's so tasty that no one will miss the crust.

Baked Apples
Photo Credit Thinkstock


  • Four large apples, cores removed without cutting through bottoms
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup oats (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • Three tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • One tablespoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch allspice


  1. Combine oats, pecans and all the spices in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Fill apples with the mixture.
  3. Place in a baking dish and add water.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until the apples are tender.
  5. Serve warm

Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at

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