Nutritionists’ favorite Thanksgiving recipes

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday dinner to host. This feast is not associated with any religious requirements or restrictions, heat waves or snowstorms. And, generally, there’s no work the next day. Most of all, the theme of the day is all about being grateful — a subject near and dear to us all.

Although many holiday recipes laden with butter, sodium and sugar look like they could stop a heart instead of warming one, there are ways to deliciously modify family favorites without compromising great taste. Who would know better than my dietitian colleagues? I asked six of them to share Thanksgiving recipes their families passed down. Some of their answers may surprise you (we’re not always angelic eaters!) and others may inspire you to cook in a way that allows you to indulge guilt-free. May their recipes (and mine) help you count your blessings — without counting too many calories.

1. Challah-Day Stuffing

My stuffing is the cornerstone of my holiday table. For reasons related to food safety and because I bake a portion that couldn’t fit inside a bird, I never stuff my turkey. The secret to this recipe is the bread. I use challah to add a sweet taste and chewy texture. Although my guests love the addition of apples, chopped nuts, roasted chestnuts, dried cranberries and mushrooms, feel free to add some of your favorite ingredients. You’ll want to make this stuffing all year long!

2. CranFruit Sauce

As a kid, I remember enjoying the jelly-like mouthfeel of canned cranberry sauce. But as an adult, the more natural taste and texture of homemade cranberry sauce became attractive. In this recipe, I’ve toned down the tartness of the cranberries with the sweetness of apples and pears, along with the addition of some crunchy nuts.

3. Sausage, Cornbread and Quinoa Stuffing

Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietitian and author of “Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family,” enjoys filling her house with a traditional “Thanksgiving smell,” as she calls it. Largeman-Roth breaks with tradition, however, by incorporating quinoa, which adds plant protein and whole grains to the mix. She’s bringing this dish to her Friendsgiving this year to provide a combo of healthy and tradition on the same plate.

4. Noodle Pudding

Though it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving dish, Lauren Harris-Pincus, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Starring YOU LLC, has been serving noodle pudding (or kugel) for as long as she can remember. “First my grandmother prepared it, then my mom, and it’s been my turn for many years,” Harris-Pincus says. By the time she started preparing the recipe, she was a registered dietitian “determined to lower the fat and calories in family recipes,” she says. So Harris-Pincus modified the original version of the family’s noodle pudding that had lots more butter, full-fat sour cream and cottage cheese, as well as whole eggs. This lighter kugel pairs perfectly with turkey and is “always a holiday hit,” Harris-Pincus says.

5. Potato Rolls

Ann Dunaway Teh, co-founder of My Menu Pal, bakes a potato roll recipe that has been handed down from her grandmother to her mom and now to her. Originally called “ice box rolls,” Dunaway Teh says these treats “have a delicate, buttery flavor and an aroma that just keeps everyone coming back for more.” Although they take some work to prepare, Dunaway Teh doesn’t mind making the effort to show how thankful she is for her family. She gave the recipe a makeover a while back, swapping out some butter and replacing it with applesauce and plain Greek yogurt. Dunaway Teh also boosted its fiber content by using a mix of white whole-wheat flour and all-purpose flour.

6. Cornbread

Lindsay Livingston, a registered dietitian and blogger at The Lean Green Bean shared her Mimi’s cornbread recipe. “My mom made it every year growing up, and now I make it myself,” she says. “Even though it’s full of butter, sugar and Bisquick … it’s so good.” It’s one of those recipes Livingston felt no need to change on this special occasion. The addition of corn kernels could boost fiber and add some sweet crunch.

7. Whipped Sweet Potatoes Topped With Mini Marshmallows

Registered dietitian Rosanne Rust created this dish to please her middle son, the family’s pickiest eater. He didn’t have a varied vegetable repertoire, so this sweet potato dish added vitamin A and a “spoonful of sugar,” as Rust calls it, from the mini marshmallows. Unlike most casseroles that recommend adding lots of unnecessary fat, Rust uses low-fat milk and only a touch of butter.

8. Cinnamon-Roasted Apples

Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian in the New York City area and a contributing blogger for, celebrates two of her favorite fall flavors with a recipe that brings together apples and cinnamon. She particularly appreciates its versatility — the dish can “wear so many hats,” Gorin says. “It works as a healthy side or a dessert, or even as leftovers the next morning as a topping for French toast.” This dish is low in sugar, yet feels indulgent.

More from U.S. News

Thanksgiving on a Gluten-Free, Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

How to Have a Paleo Thanksgiving

11 Fantastic Fall Snacks

Nutritionists’ Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes originally appeared on

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