This year, add a twist to your Thanksgiving staples.
This year, add a twist to your Thanksgiving staples.

7 Healthy(ish) Recipes for the Holidays

Wild rice stuffing, date pumpkin pie, savory sprouts, and more

This year, add a twist to your Thanksgiving staples.

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Navigating the holidays without blowing your training plan or abandoning your commitment to clean eating can feel like an Olympic sport. Turkey Trots and moderation only go so far when you’re staring down Thanksgiving feasts and weeks of holiday parties, so we asked athletes and nutritionists for their holiday staples. Whether you’re looking for a healthy side dish or a lighter take on a classic, we’ve got you covered.

Kale, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Salad

Dietitian and ultrarunner Alex Borsuk is a big fan of this flavorful salad. Sturdy greens like kale keep well in the fridge, which makes this nutrient-dense dish a great option for a healthy post-holiday leftovers lunch.


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • 4 cups kale, chopped into small pieces
  • ½ cup roasted hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. To prepare the sweet potatoes, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. While the potatoes are cooking, combine the quinoa and vegetable broth in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, and cover. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Transfer the kale to a large bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and use your hands to massage for about 20 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes, quinoa, hazelnuts, and hemp seeds to the bowl. Drizzle with about ⅓ cup dressing until everything is evenly coated. Taste and add more dressing as needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Sedona Stuffing

Olympic medalist Deena Kastor dreamed up this stuffing on a Thanksgiving trip to Sedona, Arizona. “We wanted to create our abundant meal with foods that represented the Southwest,” says Kastor. Wild rice and bone broth make this classic dish more nutritious than your standard from-the-bag stuffing, and you can prep the wild rice and cornbread up to two days in advance to save time.


  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 apple, peeled, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 pound chorizo
  • 6 cups cubed bread, dried in oven or store-bought pre-dried
  • 2 cups cornbread, diced
  • 2 cups wild rice
  • 1 cup chicken bone broth


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large stock pot, sauté the onion, celery, and apple until the onion begins to sweat. Add the oregano and mix well. Remove the chorizo from its casing and add to the pot. Stir frequently until sausage is cooked through. Add the bread, cornbread, and rice and mix well to incorporate. Add about one cup of broth to keep moist. Place the mixture in a baking dish, cover with lid or foil, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

    Mashed Yams with Sage Brown Butter

    A savory caramelized sauce complements vitamin-packed yams in this recipe from Elyse Kopecky, coauthor with Shalane Flanagan of the cookbook Run Fast. Eat Slow. To reduce day-of holiday stress, prep this side up to two days in advance and store covered in the fridge. Remove one hour prior to baking to bring it up to room temperature.


    • 3 ½ to 4 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (yams)
    • sage brown butter (recipe below)
    • ½ cup whole milk
    • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt plus more to taste
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • Pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
    • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds


    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the sweet potatoes individually in foil and bake in the center of the oven until very soft, about 60 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350. When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skin, place in a large mixing bowl, and use a fork to mash until smooth. Add the sage brown butter, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and mix until combined. Taste and add a little more salt if needed. Transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, and top with the cheese and pumpkin seeds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are warm in the center, about 20 to 25 minutes.

    Sage Brown Butter


    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • ¼ cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
    • Fine sea salt to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


    In a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown with tiny brown flecks, about four to five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, slowly add the sage leaves, and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    (Reprinted from RUN FAST. EAT SLOW. Copyright © 2016 by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.)

    Candied-Ginger Island Cranberry Sauce

    Storebought cranberry sauce is filled with unnecessary sugar—not to mention the less-than-appetizing cylindrical shape it holds after it’s plopped out of the can. This ginger-filled twist, from ultra-endurance athlete and vegan Rich Roll, comes from his 2015 cookbook, The Plantpower Way.


    • 24 ounces fresh cranberries
    • ¼ cup filtered water
    • 8 dates, soaked in water for 30 minutes and pitted
    • 1 cup candied ginger cubes
    • Cinnamon to taste


    In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and simmer over medium heat until the cranberries and dates cook down to form a sauce. Adjust the sweetness to taste by playing with the ratio of tart cranberries to sugary dates. Cool and serve.

    (Reprinted from The Plantpower Way by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2015, Rich Roll & Julie Piatt)

    Simple Mushroom Gravy

    This healthy, modern take on traditional gravy also comes from Roll’s The Plantpower Way. Featuring antioxidant-heavy mushrooms and subbing macadamia nut oil for lard, this vegan gravy is one you won’t mind ladling all over your plate.


    • 4 cups farmer’s market mushrooms
    • 1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil
    • ½ small shallot
    • ½ small lemon
    • 2 tablespoons tamari
    • 1 to 1 ½ cups water
    • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
    • 1 teaspoon fresh sage
    • About 8 pitted Kalamata olives
    • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds or ¼ cup raw cashews (optional)
    • ½ teaspoon salt (optional)


    Wash and stem the mushrooms. Heat the macadamia nut oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the shallot until brown. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown and release their juices, about five minutes. Remove from heat and squeeze half the lemon over the mushrooms. Add the tamari and stir. Transfer mushrooms to a high-powered blender and purée until smooth. Add ½ cup of the water, the rosemary, the sage, and half the olives. Process again until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add the remaining olives, if desired. If you like a creamier gravy or prefer a lighter color, add the sesame seeds or cashews. Process in the mixer until well blended. Pour the mushroom puree back into the skillet and add the remaining water, ½ cup at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. If it needs more salt, add another splash of tamari or ½ teaspoon sea salt.

    (Reprinted from The Plantpower Way by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2015, Rich Roll & Julie Piatt)

    Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

    Deena Kastor’s favorite side dish is a flavorful take on brussels sprouts. “This recipe is a family favorite, especially during the holidays,” she says. Brussels sprouts are packed with nutrients like vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium, and iron. Enjoy as a side dish or as a main vegetarian meal over rice with broiled tomatoes.


    • 1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced in a food processor or by hand
    • 1 teaspoon butter
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 2 small shallots, minced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon capers
    • Toasted sliced almonds


    In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, then add the garlic and brown sugar. Cook for one more minute and add the brussels sprouts. Sauté and continue to stir for about six minutes or until tender. Stir in the vinegar and capers. Transfer to a serving dish and top with toasted almonds.  

    Date-Sweetened Pumpkin Pie

    This spin on the traditional Thanksgiving pie comes from Megan Landrum, a registered dietitian at Alavita nutrition clinic in Portland, Oregon. She substitutes a butter-laden crust for one made with dates, pecans, and oats. The goal, Landrum says, was to make a pie healthy enough to eat for breakfast.



    • 1 cup pecans
    • 1 cup dates, pitted
    • ½ cup rolled oats
    • ¼ cup flaxseed meal
    • ¼ cup water


    • 1 can pumpkin
    • 1 cup medjool dates, pitted
    • 2 eggs
    • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    • ½ teaspoon ginger


    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Soak the dates for both the crust and filling in boiling water for ten minutes, then drain. To make the crust, combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Place the mixture in a pie pan and press to cover the bottom and sides. To make the filling, combine the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let the pie cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

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