Control the 'spread': Healthy Thanksgiving recipes and tips

November 25, 2014 | by Sara Lewis



Celebrating the holidays with family and friends can be festive, but most of us definitely overeat. The average Thanksgiving meal is close to 3,000 calories – well above the average daily recommendation of 2,000 calories.

Here, we serve up some tips from City of Hope dietitians Dhvani Bhatt and Denise Ackerman to bring healthier options to the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

We also offer updates on classic side dishes and desserts, tested by City of Hope dietitians, that use seasonal vegetables and fruits, herbs, egg whites and spices to minimize the need for butter, salt and cream.

Healthy-start quick tips

  • Avoid skipping meals and shopping for food when hungry. People often make bad choices when they're hungry.
  • Control intake of liquid calories.
  • Stay away from the Thanksgiving food table before the big meal; snack on healthy foods instead.
  • Watch your portion sizes, and lower the proportion of sugar, saturated fat and calories.
  • Cut back on high-fat meats and creamy casseroles. Increase the use of vegetables, fruits and fiber.
  • Try recipe makeovers.
  • Take a post-dinner walk.

Try our suggested holiday side dish

Apple Cranberry Dressing

Yield: 16 servings (1/2 cup per serving)

  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped apple
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 10 ounce box poultry‑flavored stuffing mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cranberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley


  1. In a large skillet, sauté celery and onion in margarine until tender.
  2. Stir in apple juice, water, brown sugar, apple and black pepper.
  3. Heat to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer 2 minutes; remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix and apple juice mixture.
  5. Stir in egg; lightly fold in cranberries and parsley.
  6. Spoon mixture into greased, 2 quart or 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  7. Cover and bake at 350° for 25 minutes.
  8. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes. Serve hot.

Nutrient analysis per serving:

  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 4 g

Find these healthy Thanksgiving recipes on our website

Review a list of healthy recipe subsitutions.

Other helpful resources

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