Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Healthy Side Dishes

Welcome to the first installment of our "Healthy and Easy Thanksgiving" here at Finding Joy in My Kitchen.  Today we'll be talking side dishes!  I do hope you'll stop back this week as we also share our favorite healthy breads and desserts recipes. 

Let's be honest... most of the side dishes are why we love Thanksgiving foods!  Sure, the turkey might steal the show, but really, we just love Grandma's potatoes, and we look forward to those crunchy onions on top of green bean casserole all year long.  These side dishes are often the dishes that are loaded with the most carbs and lipids {translation... calories}.

Is there a way to increase the good stuff in these side dishes (i.e., whole grains, veggies, fruits) and reduce the saturated fats, refined sugars and white flours?  Oh, and do these dishes still taste good after all this modification?!

We think so.

Let's start with the stuffing:

Stuffing from a box/bag is made with white breads and loaded with salt. One 1/2 C serving of prepared stuffing contains 18% of your daily sodium intake!  By making the stuffing from scratch, you can use 100% whole wheat or whole grain breads, add in veggies {like onion and celery} and control the salt.  Our favorite stuffing is one that has been in our family for years --  Wild Rice Stuffing.

Start two days before Thanksgiving by tearing the bread into pieces and letting it dry out on the counter.  Then, make up the veggie mix and the wild rice the day before Thanksgiving.  Then, on Thanksgiving day, just dump together and bake!

Moving on to the potatoes:

Potatoes can easily be healthy for you -- simply omitting the butter and heavy cream from mashed potatoes can greatly reduce the saturated fat content.  My Grandma's Mashed Potatoes are a hit around here, and all she uses is milk!

If you're looking to go even healthier, try adding some broccoli into the mix... broccoli smashed potatoes are a hit at our place.  You can omit the butter entirely from this recipe as well as replacing the cream with extra milk, or with a splash of half and half.

Maybe you'd rather cut the carbs out of the potatoes and would like to substitute roasted cauliflower mash instead.  This is a excellent alternative side dish choice!

How about those orange veggies:

We love making Crockpot Squash  for Thanksgiving -- served with just a little butter and honey or molasses {rather than brown sugar}, this is my favorite side dish.

Squash can be a pain to prepare and it does take time!  The beauty of this recipe is that you can (1) cook the squash well before Thanksgiving and (2) place the squash in the crockpot the day of the meal to warm and cook that day!  This year, I'm even going to try cooking the squash in the crockpot in the first place.

For a healthier alternative to sweet potato casserole, serve crockpot squash topped with some granola!
Or, if sweet potato casserole is a must -- find a recipe that uses less butter and cream; and makes the topping with whole wheat flour.  We tried a new one last year and enjoyed it very much.

One other dish you can use in place of traditional sweet potato casserole are these delicious sweet potato treats!  These lovely potatoes include brown rice, and if you make them Amy's way, they are sugar free too!  A nice alternative for our GF guests.  

And, what would the side dish list be without Green Bean Casserole?

One way we make the green bean casserole better for us is by making our own cream of mushroom soup!  Using fresh mushrooms rather than canned ones, we are able to doubly reduce the sodium.  With being able to control how much salt is in this dish, then we can splurge on those crunchy onions on the top :)

One way to save on time with this recipe is to also make it in the crockpot -- just sprinkle the onions {toast them first on a cookie sheet in the oven} over the top before you serve.  

Or, if you're looking to have green beans on the menu, but want to avoid the creamed version, try our simple herbed green beans.

Don't forget the fruit...

For some reason, holiday dinners seem to include Jello salads!  Or... is it just me?  Many of these salads are creamy in nature, but what I like about this Cran-Raspberry Jello is that it includes quite a bit of fruit and doesn't have the cream associated with the salad.  If I'm going to make a Jello salad, this is my choice.

The best part about these dishes, is they are easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time and just warmed/baked up or removed from the Jello mold on Thanksgiving day!

What do you do to help make your side dishes better for you or easier to prepare?  I'd love to hear your tips!

This post is linked to:
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday
Tasty Tuesday Bloghop
Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods
What's on Your Plate?
Side Dish Showdown
This Week's Craving


  1. Hey! Thank you for the comment. I love the concept of your blog. I think I am going to make my own stuffing this year, so I can incorporate healthier ingredients. I had no idea how much sodium boxed stuffing has, wow!

    I'm your newest follower. I'd love a follow back. :) Living A Bona Fide Life

  2. man I cant wait, thanks for sharing these simple recipes!

  3. Those look wonderful! Bookmarking for future Turkey Dinners...which happen to be my mother's favorite meal!

  4. Excellent ideas! Thanks for sharing, this is wonderful!

  5. Oh please, I am so ready to sit down and have dinner. All the dishes look amazing. Thank you for sharing.
    Miz Helen

  6. i made my own stuffing for the first time last yr and ill never ever ever go back to the box. i didn't use my own bread but i may try that this yr. we keep it pretty traditional around here so i don't change much and its pretty unhealthy, but its once a year so its ok. we will have the green bean casserole with the homemade soup though!

  7. Great post, SnoWhite. We like to make our meals healthy too. Love cauliflower. ;-)

  8. Now if I can just convince Nathan that homemade stuffing is tastier than Stove Top! Seriously, what is wrong with the man's taste buds?!? ;-)

  9. Hi Snowhite! What a great write up! Ya, I have totally overhauled our dishes throughtout the years to include more traditional ingredients after our mothers changed things because of fear of fat. Glad to be back to the way my Granny cooked! I created a great loaded mashed potato recipe filled with raw cream, raw butter, local potatoes, raw cheese and pastured bacon. Cant get any healthier than that! http://amoderatelife.com/featured-blog-hop-recipes/easy-one-pot-loaded-mashed-potatoes/ all the best! alex

  10. Wow!!! Thank you so much for posting all these recipes!! I can't wait for Thanksgiving! I'm going to use a few from your blog (especially the wild rice stuffing! yum!!)

  11. So tasty - thanks for linking these to This Week's Cravings!!

  12. Awesome Post! Thanks for linking with us at This Week's Cravings we appreciate it!


Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear from you; especially how you're finding JOY in your kitchen.

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