fitness in a flash

Healthy and Delicious Thanksgiving Recipes That Won’t Interrupt Your Healthy Lifestyle

Aaron BW SMALL-with-logoThe holidays are quickly approaching and my favorite of them all is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday ingrained in American culture that invokes memories of fall, family gatherings and most importantly, food. As the holiday season approaches many clients begin to stress about their decreased willpower, inevitable over-consumption of food and the myriad of delicious and calorically dense food choices that embody the spirit of Thanksgiving. Now, take a deep breath and relax. I’ve searched high and low for some delicious recipes that can be easily incorporated into any Thanksgiving meal that wont have you wallowing in a caloric catastrophe. 

First and foremost we have the pinnacle of any Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey. Turkey is a lean meat, packed with protein, low in carbs and loaded with flavor so eat up. Best of all, Thanksgiving turkey usually comes with plenty of leftovers so you’ll have lots of protein packed options for meal prep later in the week. 

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes. Most of my family traditions involve more than a few rich and nutritionally void options. Things like sweet potato pralines, jello molds, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie come to mind. As good as all those things sound, I would prefer not to spend all of January burning off November’s choices. So what if it were possible to incorporate healthy side dishes that were packed with flavor, vitamins and nutrients, had the essence of Thanksgiving and were guaranteed to have your guests begging for the recipes? I have searched the culinary universe and narrowed it down to 4 of my favorite choices. 

Aaron-with-logoWhen dealing with side dishes I decided it would be best to focus on vegetables. Thanksgiving is, after all, a holiday of harvest, and that includes a tremendous amount of seasonal vegetables worthy of any autumnal celebration. Foods like root vegetables, squash and sweet potatoes all pack a nutritional punch and maintain a healthy caloric balance. So without further introduction I present you four of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes:

This first dish comes from the kitchen and cookbook of one of my favorite Los Angeles lunch spots, Lemonade. Their chef, Alan Jackson utilizes some of the most creative and delicious ingredients to create visually stunning, flavorful and vegetable packed salads and side dishes. This is my favorite go-to place for on the run food and their sweet potato dishes are always my top choices.

Lemonade’s Sweet Potato With Parsley and Pistachio Vinaigrette


1 lb of sweet potatoes (I amped this up and used about 4 medium sized ones) – sliced and then cut into one-inch cubes

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/2 pistachio vinaigrette (more on that below)

1/2 cup shelled, toasted and crushed pistachios (I put them in the toaster oven for about 4 minutes)

1/2 chopped parsley

salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp orange juice

1 tbsp honey or agave

1/2 shallot chopped

1/2 tsp course sea salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

3/4 pistachio oil (see below)

For pistachio oil:

1/4 cup shelled pistachios, toasted

1/2 cup canola oil


1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Cup up potatoes and then place them on a baking sheet in a single layer.

3. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss.

4. Place in oven and bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

5. Meanwhile, toast and crush your pistachios. Enough for tossing in the salad and for the oil.

6. Take a 1/4 cup of those pistachios and put them in a blender with canola oil. Blend at high speed for about a minute. Pour that into a glass or jar and set aside.

7. Mix vinegar, honey, lemon and orange juices, shallot, salt and pepper in large bowl. Pour pistachio oil on top. Include the goop that may have settled. I used about half of my pistachio oil. Taste the dressing and test to your liking.

8. Take the sweet potatoes out of the oven and let them cool.

9. Then add sweet potatoes to the dressing in the bowl, toss in the rest of the toasted, crushed pistachios and fresh parsley.

10. Toss and eat!

Thanksgiving may be famous for turkey, but mashed potatoes are a close runner up when it comes to tradition.  Instead of whipping up a bowl of starchy white potatoes, substitute this Roasted Garlic Cauliflower and Celery Root Mash from

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Celery Root Mash

4-6 servings


    1 garlic head

    1 teaspoon olive oil

    1 large cauliflower head, cut into florets

    1 celery root, peeled and cubed

    4 tablespoons ghee

    Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste



1) Preheat oven to 400F.

2) Slice top off of garlic head. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and wrap in foil.       

3) Roast until soft and caramelized, about 35 minutes.

4) Place cauliflower and celery root in pot, cover with water, and add large pinch of salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

5) Drain vegetables and add to food processor with a few cloves of roasted garlic, ghee, salt and pepper. Pulse until combined. Add more garlic to taste. Process to desired consistency.

One of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is to roast them.  It’s quick, easy, healthy, and it brings out the natural flavors of the vegetables themselves. I narrowed it down to one specific group: root vegetables.  Here is a foolproof recipe from the website that will have your dinner guests “root”ing for more!

Roasted Root Vegetables

Serves 4-6

Look for pre-chopped root vegetables in the produce section of your grocery store if you are in a time crunch. You can replace or substitute any of the vegetables with others or more of the same depending what you have on hand.

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium sized cubes (about 2 lbs)

3/4 lb of parsnips, peeled and cut into medium sized cubes

1/2 lb. of rutabaga, peeled and chopped into medium sized cubes

1/2 lb. of turnips, peeled and cut into medium sized cubes

1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes, cut in half the long way

1 red onion, peeled and cut into medium-large cubes

Olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning

1 shallot, finely minced (could use garlic instead)

2 sprigs of rosemary leaves, pulled from the stem and finely minced

Preheat your oven to 400F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. Peel and cube all the vegetables and slice the potatoes in half. Place the vegetables including the chopped onion onto the baking sheets and liberally season them with olive oil, salt and pepper, at least 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt per sheet of vegetables, possibly more. Then toss them well so each cube is coated in seasoning.  Place the baking sheets of seasoned vegetables into the oven and let roast for 15 minutes. In the mean time mince the shallots and rosemary. After 15 minutes pull the vegetables from the oven and sprinkle them with shallots and rosemary and stir well. Place both pans back in the oven, rotating which pan was on the lower rack. Roast for 15 more minutes. At this point pull each pan of vegetables and stir well and check for seasoning and degree of browning. All the veg should be soft to a fork or knife and developing a brown, crisp crust and sweet flavor. If they need more time for browning put them back in for 5-10 minutes as needed. If done, toss all the vegetable onto a large bowl or platter and serve immediately.

Fall wouldn’t be complete without squash.  One of my favorite types of squash is spaghetti squash. I could endlessly praise spaghetti squash for its incredible ability to substitute itself for low carb pasta dishes but that could be an entire article in itself. For now I present an incredible recipe from How To Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman, that takes spaghetti squash and brings it to the centerpiece of your healthy Thanksgiving meal. 

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter and Walnuts


    2 medium spaghetti squash

    Olive oil

    Salt and pepper

    ½ cup walnuts

    2 sprigs fresh sage

    4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter or ghee


Heat the oven to 500F. (while the oven is heating) Halve the squash lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn them sit side down. Put the squash in the oven – it doesn’t have to be fully heated. Roast until the squash is tender and a knife easily pierces the skin, 30-40 minutes. While the squash is roastin, chop the ½ cup walnuts. Strip the leaves from 2 sprigs sage and chop. After the squash has cooked for 25 minutes or so, put 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally until the foam subsides and the butter turns but brown, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the walnuts, she and a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper. Turn off the heat. When the squash are tender, carefully use a fork to scrape loose the strands of squash, keeping them inside the skin. Put each squash half on a plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper, spoon the butter mixture over the top, and serve.

Thanksgiving is a time to bring together family, be thankful and celebrate with food.  By replacing some of your traditional calorie laden food with healthier, more nutritionally balanced foods you can be certain that you’ll be satiated and satisfied without all the guilt and remorse that often accompanies holiday celebrations. 


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