Healthy and Delicious Thanksgiving Recipes

Food and nutrition experts at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen offer a fresh, nutritional take on traditional holiday dishes.

Photos of healthy Thanksgiving recipes
Photos of healthy Thanksgiving recipes

The average Thanksgiving meal — complete with piles of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing — can total a whopping 3,000 calories. Add the festive drinks, tempting appetizers, and sugar-laden desserts, and you could be looking at 4,500 calories in one meal.

Whether you’re looking for some healthier recipes to try this Thanksgiving or just feel like mixing up tradition, Health Matters turned to experts at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen for a fresh take on a few classic dishes.

“These recipes are a lot lower in sugar than your traditional Thanksgiving recipes,” says Joseph Malota, director of Food and Nutrition at the Teaching Kitchen, “and they’re also packed with fiber to help you feel full longer.”

Mushroom canapes, a healthy Thanksgiving recipe.

Mushroom Canapes with Truffle Oil

Serves 4

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs mixed mushrooms (shitaki, baby bella, chanterelle, etc.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp white wine
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp butter
4 slices crusty bread, toasted
1 Tbsp truffle oil
Optional: shaved truffles or shaved Parmesan

1. In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil.
2. Add the mushrooms and cook until they soften and begin to brown, about 7 minutes. Note: Do not overcrowd the pan or the mushrooms will never brown. They need to sit on the pan, and don’t move them around much; they need time to form that “browning.”
3. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, white wine, and thyme. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes longer. Reduce heat, and add parsley and butter until melted. Remove from heat.
4. Mound mushroom mixture on toast, sprinkle with parsley, and drizzle with truffle oil.
5. Add optional shaved truffles or Parmesan.

Quinoa & Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 4-6

4 acorn squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of all spice, ginger, cinnamon)

1 cup quinoa
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins, or golden raisins
6 cups spinach or Swiss chard or kale, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle each with olive oil, and dust with salt, pepper, and pumpkin pie spice.
3. Place the squash, cut side down, on the sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes until tender.
4. Make the filling: heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan. Add the shallot and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and quinoa mix around to allow the spices to disperse. Add the broth (or water) and cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the quinoa is done.
5. Place the spinach and cranberries in a bowl. Pour the hot quinoa mixture over spinach, and toss to wilt the greens.
6. Spoon the mixture into the squash and serve.

Butternut squash soup, a healthy Thanksgiving recipe.

Spiced Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 Tbsp za-atar spice mix*, divided
1 leek, white part only, sliced and washed well
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced thinly
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch
5 cups low sodium vegetable broth, (hot if I you want
to speed up the process)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 lemon, juiced

*To make your own Za’atar combine the following in a mortar and pestle:
1 tablespoon dried thyme- crushed (or sub oregano)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sumac
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon or more aleppo chili flakes- optional

1. In a small pan, combine 2 Tbsp of the olive oil with the 2 Tbsp za’atar spice mix. Heat gently over medium heat until fragrant. Set aside to cool and infuse the oil, up to one hour, at least 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile in a soup pot add the remaining olive oil with the onion, carrot and leek. Cook about 5 minutes until softened. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of za’atar and the sweet potatoes.
3. Add the vegetable broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer about 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft.
4. Remove the bay leaves, and blend completely.
5. Ladle into bowls to serve. Top with the za’atar oil, feta, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Roasted delicata squash, a healthy Thanksgiving recipe.

Roasted Delicata Squash

Serves 4-6

2 delicata squashes, or acorn or butternut squashes, cut in half, seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup safflower oil or other high-heat oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Toss squash slices in safflower oil with salt and brown sugar.
3. Spread out in one layer on a sheet pan.
4. Bake for 20–30 minutes, until squash is nicely browned, and soft all the way through when poked with a utensil.
5. Enjoy with skin and all!

Stores in refrigerator for up to 5–7 days.

Bussels Sprouts

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

2 pounds brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Crack or two of black pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Slice the brussels sprouts in half.
3. Whisk together olive oil, salt, pepper, and mustard. Pour over the brussels sprout and toss together to coat them.
4. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread the brussels sprouts
over the pan in one layer and bake about 20 minutes. Give them a stir, add the maple syrup and bake another 20 minutes. Remove when caramelized and tender.
5. While still hot out of the oven, add balsamic vinegar.
6. Top with toasted walnuts and serve.

Cream of yams, a healthy Thanksgiving recipe.

Cream of Yams

Serves 6

1 large onion, cut into 1-inch slices
2 large yams (or sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cinnamon stick
Water, enough to cover the vegetables
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ginger juice
1 Tbsp fresh, chopped parsley, as a garnish

1. In a large pot, on high heat, add onions, yams, carrots, cinnamon stick, and water.
2. Bring to a boil, and add salt.
3. Cover and reduce heat to medium; simmer until the vegetables are tender.
4. While vegetables are simmering, prepare the ginger juice: peel 1 inch of ginger and blend in a blender with 1/4 cup of water. Use a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to squeeze ginger.
5. Once vegetables are soft, turn off heat, remove cinnamon stick, and add ginger juice.

This can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

wheatberry salad

Wonderful Wheatberries Salad

Serves 4–6

1 1⁄2 cups wheatberries, cooked according to package directions
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt to taste

1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp shallot
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

3⁄4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1⁄2 cup pomegranate seeds
1⁄2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

1. In a large pan over medium heat add the olive oil. Sautee the fennel and onion with ground cumin and coriander, and salt to taste.
2. Blend all dressing ingredients together.
3. Combine the cooked wheat berries with the fennel mixture and the
4. Top with walnuts, pomegranate seeds and parsley and serve.

Stores in refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie, a healthy Thanksgiving recipe.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 12

Ingredients for the topping
1 Yukon gold potato, cut in quarters
4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cups cauliflower
3 Tbsp olive oil, softened
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper

Ingredients for the meat filling
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/2–2 cups)
2 large carrots, diced small (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
2 lbs ground turkey
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas

1. For topping, place potato and parsnips in large stockpot and cover with cold water, bring to a boil, then decrease to simmer until they are soft enough to break with tongs, about 15–20 minutes.
2. Drain and add back to pot, adding olive oil, milk, salt, and pepper. Once you get the flavor and consistency you like, mix in egg yolks, and set aside.
3. For meat filling, preheat oven to 400 F.
4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium/high heat, sauté onions and carrots for about 5 minutes, then add garlic.
5. Add ground turkey, salt, and pepper, and break up with wooden spoon while the meat browns and gets mixed into the vegetables, about 5 minutes.
6. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, and cook for another minute before adding tomato paste, chicken broth, and dried herbs. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for about 10–12 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.
7. Add corn and peas, then transfer the mixture into a baking dish.
8. Add the potato and parsnip topping and lightly press down with a fork to spread evenly.
9. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown.

Pumpkin custard, a healthy Thanksgiving recipe.

Pumpkin Custard

Serves 6

1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk (or milk alternative: soy, almond, or coconut milk works best)

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
2. Stir pumpkin, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
3. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then whisk in the maple syrup, vanilla, and milk.
4. Whisk the egg mixture into the pumpkin mixture until well combined.
5. Pour custard into six 1/2 cup ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and add enough hot water to the dish to come up about 2 inches high around the ramekins.
6. Transfer to the oven, and bake for 45¬–50 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean.
7. Serve warm or chilled.

healthy cranberry sauce

Healthy Cranberry Sauce

12 oz (1 bag) fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup maple syrup (real grade B is best)
1/3 cup water
Zest and juice of 1 medium orange
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder (optional)
1/4 tsp ginger powder (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, maple syrup, orange juice, and water. If using, add the cinnamon and ginger powders.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened, about 5-10 minutes.
3. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the orange zest. Taste. If the mixture is too tart, add more orange juice or maple syrup to taste.
4. The sauce will thicken more as it cools. Store in an air-tight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s renowned Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen, 1992 Crompond Road on the hospital’s Cortlandt Manor campus, has been open to the public since July 2014. Named after the Iron Chef winner and owner of Xaviars Restaurant Group, the Teaching Kitchen is part of a larger initiative at the hospital called Harvest for Health, which advocates healthful eating as a way to prevent chronic disease and promote health.

Each month, cooking demonstration classes are offered to the community, including sessions for breastfeeding mothers, patients who have had weight-loss surgery, cancer survivors, and people with heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic diseases. The Teaching Kitchen also holds innovative programs that focus on nutrition for bone, brain, and eye health. Learn more about upcoming classes.

Additional Resources

  • Learn more about the Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital.

  • Check out our videos to learn how to make other healthy holiday dishes, including whole-wheat banana bread and pumpkin quinoa risotto.

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