Healthy Makeovers for Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes

by Charles Platkin, PhD


Healthy Makeover by: Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., senior nutrition instructor at The Art Institute of New York City. (

Note: Traditional stuffing recipes, which use fatty meat and low-fiber white bread, are not only high in calories but also tend to be low in nutrient value. This healthier makeover substitutes whole-wheat bread to add fiber and leaner turkey in less quantity. It also uses an egg substitute instead of whole eggs and heart-healthy canola oil instead of butter.

Serves: 10

3/4 pound lean ground turkey
2 tablespoon canola oil
6 stalks celery, chopped
2 onions, chopped
30 slices day-old light whole-wheat bread, lightly toasted
½ cup egg substitute, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons ground sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fat-free chicken broth


  • Cook turkey in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until evenly browned.
  • Drain and set aside.
  • In a separate saucepan, add oil and cook celery and onions over medium heat until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine turkey, celery and onion mixture, bread, egg substitute, sage, salt and pepper.
  • Slowly add just enough broth to make the stuffing moist but not mushy.
  • Press the mixture into a baking dish.
  • Bake 1 hour or until top is brown and crisp.

Traditional: (per 1.5-cup serving): 394 calories

Healthier Makeover: (per 1.5-cup serving): 219 calories, 7 grams fat, 28 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams protein

Saving: 175 calories


Healthier Makeover by: Katy Sparks, vice president of culinary research and development for Great Performances, a New York catering and events company. (

Note: You’ll need a steamer, a vegetable peeler and food processor to make this recipe. The dish can be made ahead and gently re-warmed in the oven, covered with foil.

Serves: 6 to 8

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
2 strips fresh orange peel
2/3 cup fat-free yogurt
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder (chipotle are smoked jalapeños)
¼ cup maple syrup (dark, rich grade B if possible)
Grated fresh nutmeg, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Steam the sweet potatoes over boiling water that has been seasoned with the bay leaf, sea salt, coriander seeds and orange peel.
  • Cook until sweet potatoes are very tender.
  • Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of your food processor, add the yogurt, chipotle powder and maple syrup and purée until smooth.
  • Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Traditional: 282 calories

Healthier Makeover: (per 2/3-cup serving): 105 calories, 2 grams fat, 363 milligrams sodium, 23.6 grams carbohydrate, 2.2 grams protein, 1.9 grams dietary fiber

Saving: 177 calories


Healthier Makeover by: Karen Lush, M.P.H., R.D., corporate dietitian and program development manager for Jenny Craig. (

Note: To lighten up this traditional favorite, we used crushed low-sodium crackers on top of sautéed fresh onions instead of fried onions, which reduced the fat, sodium and calories. Substituting nonfat milk for whole milk further decreased the fat and calories.

Serves: 6

½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon soft margarine
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can low-sodium, low-fat cream of mushroom soup
½ cup nonfat milk
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (9-ounce) packages frozen French-cut green beans, thawed and drained
10 Ritz low-sodium crackers, crushed


  • Sauté chopped onion in 1 teaspoon margarine until soft.
  • Combine soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2-quart baking dish and stir until blended.
  • Stir in beans and half the sautéed onion.
  • Top with remaining onion.
  • Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until hot. Stir. Sprinkle with crushed crackers.
  • Bake 5 minutes longer.

Traditional: (per 3/4-cup serving): 170 calories

Healthier Makeover: (per 3/4-cup serving): 105 calories, 3 grams total fat, 0.8 grams saturated fat, 224 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, 3 grams dietary fiber

Saving: 65 calories


Healthier Makeover by: Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, chefs and co-authors of The Ultimate Potato Book, for the U.S. Potato Board. (

Notes: Smashed potatoes have the skins on and are a little chunkier than standard mashed potatoes. Caramelized onions will make this familiar side dish a healthy family favorite. In addition to having fewer calories, the makeover contains 16 milligrams vitamin C and 655 milligrams potassium.

Serves: 8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
2 pounds small red-skin potatoes
3/4 cup no-salt, fat-free chicken broth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Melt butter in large skillet over low heat.
  • Add onion, reduce heat to very low and cook, stirring often, until onion is golden and soft, about 45 minutes. If onion starts to brown, reduce heat further.
  • Meanwhile, place potatoes in large pot, fill with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over high heat.
  • Reduce heat and cook until tender when pierced with fork, about 25 minutes.
  • Drain in colander.
  • Transfer potatoes to a large bowl.
  • Scrape in contents of skillet; add broth, mustard, salt and pepper.
  • Beat with mixer at medium speed until smooth but not too creamy.
  • Serve at once.

Traditional: (per 5.7-ounce serving): 208 calories

Healthier Makeover: (per 5.7-ounce serving): 128 calories, 2 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 261 milligrams sodium, 25 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein, 2 grams dietary fiber

Saving: 80 calories


Healthier Makeover by: Cindy Taccini, manager of the Ocean Spray Test Kitchen. (

Note: In addition to accompanying any duck or turkey dish, the chutney, like the cranberry itself, is versatile and can be spread on bread or cheese, used in lieu of butter or served as a side dish. Cranberries are very high in antioxidants and certain nutrients that may provide protection against bacteria associated with food poisoning and urinary tract infections. You can make your own cranberry sauce, but you’ll need sugar or Splenda to make it gel; other sugar substitutes don’t work.

Serves: 10

1 16-ounce can cranberry sauce (Ocean Spray Whole Berry)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup peeled, diced apple
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash ground cloves


  • Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.
  • Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender and sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.
  • Chill until ready to serve.

Traditional: Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce (per 2-tablespoon serving): 115 calories

Healthier Makeover: (per 2-tablespoon serving): 33 calories, 0 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fat

Saving: 82 calories


Healthier Makeover by: Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D., a Miami-based nutritionist and author of The F-Factor Diet. (

Serves: 8

1 cup ginger snaps
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
½ cup egg whites (about 4)
½ cup sugar or 3½ teaspoons sugar replacement (saves an additional 48 calories per slice)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves)
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated skim milk


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Grind cookies in a food processor.
  • Lightly spray a 9-inch glass pie pan with vegetable cooking spray. Pat cookie crumbs into the pan evenly.
  • Combine all remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Pour into crust and bake about 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Traditional: (per serving: 1/8 of a 9-inch pie, 5 ounces) 277 calories

Healthier Makeover: (per serving: 1/8 of a 9-inch pie, 5 ounces) 165 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 170 milligrams sodium, 32 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams protein, 2 grams dietary fiber

Saving: 112 calories

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