From Christine Brown, Medical Weight Loss Manager

Thanksgiving is a wonderful annual tradition packed with family, football, and unfortunately a gluttony of food and calories. Would it surprise you to find out that the average Thanksgiving festivities pack on between 3000 and 4500 calories? To put that in perspective, one pound of body weight is equivalent to 3500 calories. On average, 1 mile of running will burn approximately 100 calories. Do the math.

Now for the good news. You can make some simple but delicious changes to your side dishes to cut back on those calories while adding extra health benefits along the way. Leave those stretchy waist bands at home and let’s get started.

Years ago, I found a great 8 layer Greek dip appetizer on WebMD. Not only is it easy but also has nutrients from all the vegetables as well as fiber to keep you full. It quickly became a requested favorite!


Download Thanksgiving Recipes


8 Layered Greek Dip – 10 servings
10 oz container Hummus – any flavor will work
1 C chopped spinach
½ C chopped sun-dried tomatoes
½ C chopped peeled cucumber
¼ C chopped red onion
¼ C crumbled feta or goat cheese
2 Tbsp Kalamata olive slices
¼ C Pine nuts or chopped pecans, toasted

Spread hummus on serving plate and layer rest of the ingredients over the top. Can be made ahead and refrigerated.
Serve with fresh vegetables cut into flat chips or baked pita chips.

I do not know about you, but I can’t eat more than 2 bites of the traditional green bean casserole, hardly enough to give you the serving of vegetables that your body requires for health benefits. Look outside of the box this year try oven roasted, fresh green beans. They are great simply roasted or you can dress them up with healthy toppings such as roasted almonds, sesame seeds, or my favorite – sundried tomatoes and goat cheese. Here are the basics to get you started.

Roasted Green Beans – 8 servings
2 Lbs green beans with ends trimmed
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
Ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Add beans and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat beans and spread evenly on baking sheet.

Roast 10 minutes then use tongs to stir and move beans around. Roast and additional 10 minutes or until beans start to shrivel and become golden brown in color. Serve as is or add additional toppings.

If you have never tried mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, this would be a great addition to your holiday meals. Not only is it a perfect way to sneak in an extra vegetable but you will save 100+ calories per 1 cup serving. It is also If you want an easier swap, look for frozen packages of mashed cauliflower in your local grocery store. Try this easy recipe from

Mashed Cauliflower – 8 servings
2 (16oz) packages of riced cauliflower
3 Tbsp butter
2 C water
1 tsp salt

Melt butter in large 4 quart sauce pan
Add cauliflower and sauté 3-5 minutes until light in color
Add water and salt and cover
Cook until tender – about 10 minutes
Drain while reserving ¼ C liquid
Place cooked cauliflower and reserved liquid into a large bowl
Use an emulsion blender or use food processer to puree into desired consistency
*can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and reheated

Want to try a new alternative to the over sweetened sweet potatoes? Sweet potato spoon bread is a great swap. Although there are many variations online, I recommend this basic recipe that has been a requested family favorite for years.
FYI – 1 cup of candied yams can have over 300 calories compared to 95 calories per serving of sweet potato spoon bread.

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread – 10 servings
2 sweet potatoes – cooked peeled and cooled
½ C corn meal
1 ½ C milk
2 eggs separated
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp fresh or ¾ tsp dried ginger
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp real maple syrup
Place milk and cornmeal in pan and heat until thick, stirring constantly – remove from heat and cool

In large bowl, mix sweet potatoes, maple syrup, 2 egg yolks, salt and ginger
Add cooled cornmeal mixture
In separate bowl, beat 4 egg whites until soft peaks form
Fold egg whites into sweet potato mixture
Place in sprayed or greased casserole pan
Bake 350 for 35-40 minutes
Choose your desert carefully. You can add the calories of an entire meal in one piece of pie. Here is an example of calories in 3 popular holiday pies.
Pecan Pie: 630 calories, 65g sugar
Apple Pie: 540 calories, 48g sugar
Pumpkin Pie: 460 calories, 45g sugar
Swap out those calories and added sugar for warm baked apples with walnuts. Top with coconut milk
or real whipped cream – leave the sugar out, you won’t need it!

Baked Apples – 8 servings
8 medium apples peeled, cored, and cut into slices
4 Tbsp coconut oil melted (can use melted butter or olive oil)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ C chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 375
Place apples on large baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and drizzle with oil
Sprinkle with cinnamon and mix together until apples are well coated
Bake 10 minutes – stir and top with nuts
Bake 10 minutes longer or until desired tenderness

Serve warm as is or top with canned coconut milk or whipped cream – unsweetened