This Is What Nutrition Experts Eat on Thanksgiving

Five experts share healthy Thanksgiving dishes, from kale salad to cranberry sauce.

For most of us, Thanksgiving is a day for forgetting diets exist. But what about the people who have devoted their careers to healthy eating? We caught up with five nutrition experts to find out their favorite healthy Thanksgiving dishes.

Kara Lydon's cranberry sauce. Photo provided

Lydon’s cranberry sauce. All photos provided

Kara Lydon

Who she is: A registered dietitian, yoga teacher, and nutrition coach who blogs at The Foodie Dietitian.

Her favorite dish: Naturally sweetened cranberry sauce.

Why it’s the best: “While I’m a strong believer that there’s a place for indulgences over the holidays, I’m an even bigger believer that healthy food can—and should be—delicious. For instance, I could eat cranberry sauce by the spoonful, but most cranberry sauces are loaded with added sugar. I make a healthier version with 75 percent less added sugar using natural sweeteners like applesauce and orange juice.”

Recipe: Find the full recipe here.

Lauren Mayer's kale salad. Photo provided

Mayer’s kale salad.

Lauren Mayer

Who she is: The registered dietitian behind the blog Decidedly Nutritious.

Her favorite dish: Winter kale salad.

Why it’s the best: “As a vegetarian, the sides are the focus of my Thanksgiving dinner. I start to crave something fresh and green in the midst of all the sweet carbohydrates on the table. This kale salad, with roasted butternut squash, tart pomegranate seeds, and creamy white beans, is a great addition to the Thanksgiving feast. Bonus: You can make it the day before.”

Recipe: The full recipe can be found on Mayer’s blog.

Butternut squash soup

Rogalski’s butternut squash soup.

Caroline Rogalski

Who she is: Rogalski is a nutrition researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Her favorite dish: Butternut squash soup.

Why it’s the best: “This is a perfect dish for Thanksgiving because it can be made ahead and stored in your freezer until needed. Butternut squash is low in calories, has no saturated fat or cholesterol, and is a rich source of dietary fiber. I skip adding cream, which you typically find in butternut squash soup. Trust me, you won’t miss it.”

Recipe: Sweat one chopped sweet onion in a pan with two or three tablespoons salted butter. Add a peeled and chopped butternut squash and three cans chicken broth, preferably low-sodium. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the squash is soft, blend and add one tablespoon brown sugar. If desired, garnish with crème fresh and pepitas.


Scarlata’s sweet potato souffle.

Kate Scarlata

Who she is: Scarlata is a Medway-based registered dietitian who specializes in low FODMAP diets.

Her favorite dish: Sweet potato soufflé.

Why it’s the best: “I love the sweet taste and nutritional perks of sweet potatoes rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A. The brown sugar and pecan crumble makes this dish a bit decadent—just perfect to make your holiday meal a bit more special.”

Recipe: Scarlata modified this recipe. In her version, start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Blend two large, baked sweet potatoes with 1/3 cup granulated sugar, two eggs, two tablespoons low-fat milk, two tablespoons melted butter, and 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract. Place mixture in a baking pan. Using a pastry cutter, combine 1/3 cup brown sugar, two tablespoons butter, two tablespoons flour, 1/3 cup chopped pecans, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture and bake for about 25 minutes.

Cranberry sauce

Withee’s cranberry sauce.

Ayla Withee

Who she is: Withee is a registered dietitian who owns Boston Functional Nutrition and writes the blog Eat Simply.

Her favorite dish: Spicy cranberry sauce.

Why it’s the best: “While it isn’t a low-sugar side, if you make it yourself, you can at least avoid high fructose corn syrup. Plus the addition of warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves add even more antioxidants. Orange zest brightens up the flavor but also provides citrus bioflavonoids, which are important compounds that support our body’s detoxification pathways.”

Recipe: The full recipe can be found on Withee’s blog.