If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year or attending a Thanksgiving meal at someone else’s house and bringing food to share, I have some easy healthy side dish ideas for you!
I made all of these last weekend when I hosted a Friendsgiving in my dorm which was…phew, quite an undertaking. I made everything using one baking sheet and one pot on the stovetop. (I will never do that again.) I’ll look forward to hosting my next Friendsgiving in hopefully a real apartment/house, more than one pot and baking sheet, my own kitchen, and a fridge that’s bigger than a couple of shoeboxes!
I got some of my ingredients, plus both of my desserts from The Fresh Market, which ended up being the BEST pies I’ve ever had, homemade or otherwise. (More on those later!)
But without further ado, here are some healthy Thanksgiving side dishes for inspiration for your Thanksgiving! I’ll share in the order that I made them, in case that helps.
Side Dish 1: Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
I actually just posted this recipe here on the blog a few days ago! I baked the sweet potatoes on the morning of Friendsgiving since they take a while to cook and they’re totally fine to make in advance. I washed them, wrapped them in aluminum foil, popped them in the oven, left to go for a run, and took them out when I got back. I left them in foil, and then later that afternoon, I mashed them and made the oat nut topping.
Side Dish 2: Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots
In the afternoon, I baked these carrots first since large carrots take a while to roast. I washed two pounds of whole carrots, scrubbed them clean (no need to peel), dried them, and halved them lengthwise for faster cooking.
Then, I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper, added the carrots in a single layer, drizzled them with 1 tablespoon of avocado oil (safe for high heat) and 2 tablespoons of honey, and then added a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I cooked them at 350 degrees for 50 minutes until they were tender.
Side Dish 3: Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese
For this butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese, I roasted the squash instead of boiling it since I was planning on roasting other veggies already. I prepped the squash while the carrots were in the oven, and then turned the heat up to 425 degrees to roast the butternut squash on a baking sheet (coated with a tablespoon of avocado oil) for 20-25 minutes, reusing the same baking sheet.
I blended up the sauce while the next side dish (Brussels sprouts) was in the oven. Then, I boiled the pasta at the last minute and added the pasta to the sauce right before serving it since like most creamy pasta recipes, the sauce starts to get extra thick once it’s added to the pasta.
Side Dish 4: Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
This was the final roasted veggie! While the butternut squash was in the oven, I washed and dried a pound of Brussels sprouts. When the butternut squash was done roasting, I spread the Brussels sprouts on the same baking sheet lined with the same parchment paper, drizzled them with a tablespoon of avocado oil and about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, added salt and pepper, and roasted them for 15-20 minutes at that same high temperature.It was good to do these last so I didn’t need to try to reuse the baking sheet since balsamic vinegar gets all over the parchment paper and sheet! This way, I could just wash the pan and put it away.
Side Dish 5: Fall Harvest Salad
Once the brussels sprouts were in the oven, I was mostly done with veggie prepping and ready to make the no-bake dishes. My go-to salad is mixed greens with some type of nuts, feta or goat cheese, and some type of fruit (berries in summer and diced apples or pears in winter). Or, I’ll do roasted butternut squash instead of fruit.
I was planning on making a pear salad so I didn’t have too many squash dishes, but when my pears weren’t ripe (still as hard as rocks), I had to change the plan. Luckily, I had enough extra roasted butternut squash for the salad! And I served the salad with a bottle of olive oil vinaigrette dressing instead of homemade to simplify things a bit.
Side Dish 6: Fruit Salad
I think having a fruit salad is awesome for a healthy sweet option since there may be people who aren’t eating dessert or are gluten-free or something like that. This one had chopped apples, pears, oranges, and blackberries.
So, that’s it for the side dishes! I’d initially debated making or buying a turkey but talked myself out of it. I’ll save that for a few years down the road. And the side dishes are the best part, anyway!
For dessert, I picked up two pies from The Fresh Market. My grandpa is a huge fan of The Fresh Market’s bakery (they bake all of their pies in-house!), so I had that in mind when I shopped there. I picked up a traditional apple pie and a strawberry rhubarb pie.
When we sat down for dinner, I placed the pies in the oven at a really low temperature (like 250 degrees) to slightly warm them up, and then I served them with vanilla ice cream. Everyone raved about how amazing they were.
Some things I learned from hosting my first Friendsgiving
• You don’t have to make everything. Even for someone who loves cooking, picking up a couple of high-quality desserts (or a few sides) from The Fresh Market was such a good idea because it gave me fewer things to juggle.
I learned this from my mom, who purchases a few things like cranberry sauce and stuffing ahead of time and then makes the rest herself. (When I was planning on getting a turkey, I was definitely going to buy my stuffing and cranberry sauce!) And the Fresh Market lets you buy sides by the pound, so it’s a great option for whatever size your crowd is.
• Buying pre-cut veggies is helpful. I don’t buy tons of pre-cut veggies on a regular basis, but since I was making six side dishes, I realized I could use all of the time-saving help I could get. I got pre-chopped butternut squash at The Fresh Market, as well as halved Brussels sprouts, which was really nice.
I was planning to also buy spiralized zucchini to make a sautéed “zoodle” dish, but they happened to be out of spiralized zucchini when I was there, so I nixed that idea for this time.
• Writing out a plan and a schedule was really useful. I mapped out general times I’d prep each item and put it in the oven (with extra time built in) so I wouldn’t forget anything or run out of time. Again, thanks Mom!
All in all, it was a really fun night with a group of girls I’ve known since my freshman year!
And if you’re still planning your menu…
The Fresh Market’s Thanksgiving guide offers inspiration, meal solutions, fan-favorite recipes and insider tips & tricks to create an unforgettable meal. If you’re cooking your Thanksgiving meal from scratch, The Fresh Market offers choices such as fresh turkey, spiral-sliced honey ham, beef tenderloin and lamb that can be purchased and made at home using your favorite family recipes.
For those who are tight on time and looking for memorable meals with minimal effort, The Fresh Market’s holiday meal ordering program is available online now through November 20 at 2 p.m. EST. You can find your nearest The Fresh Market using this store locator!
So tell me…
What’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year?
What are your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes? What about desserts?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.