There’s nothing like turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie — or is there?

While the traditional Thanksgiving meal has held up well for decades, it might be time for your family to put a new spin on this classic dinner. Whether you want to improve your health or are just looking for some new flavors, try swapping out traditional dishes for some healthier (yet delicious) updated options. 

A turned-up turkey

Luckily, roasting a turkey is already a healthy way to cook the bird, if you don’t slather it in butter. This year, add flavor by brining it in an apple cider and herb mixture overnight. This is a healthier method than a salt brine. Combine apple cider, black peppercorns, garlic, onions and bay leaves to help ensure the turkey has less sodium from the start. The next morning, wash off the brine before roasting or grilling.

Always be sure to get the turkey up to the right temperature to kill possible germs: 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the breast.

Vary your veggies

A lot of Thanksgiving side dishes are heavy on simple carbohydrates and starches, including yams, mashed potatoes, stuffing and rolls. Swap out one of these starches for a healthy meal full of roasted vegetables.

Root vegetables, like carrots or parsnips, end up with a similar texture to potatoes when you roast them. Add plenty of flavor with olive oil, garlic and even Parmesan cheese to make these vegetables stand out.

Not-so-sweet potatoes

Traditional sweet potato recipes are topped with lots of brown sugar and marshmallows, which add unnecessary calories and cover up the delicious natural sweetness that sweet potatoes have. This year, let those potatoes shine by eliminating marshmallows and instead roasting the veggie with a crunchy oat-streusel topping.

A streusel topping with pecans, oats and maple syrup will add a light sweetness to the top of an already sweet and healthy potato. You can also flavor the potatoes directly with a little vanilla.

Swap your stuffing

Easily add even more nutrition and flavor to your homemade stuffing by using whole-grain bread in place of white bread. While you can add the classic veggies (celery, carrots and onion), try introducing some alternatives, like apples to add sweetness or mushrooms to add a savory component.

The key to a great stuffing is adding flavor through fresh herbs like rosemary and sage. Cut back on butter, using only a few tablespoons if desired, to reduce calories while helping it brown up nicely.

Remember, never bake your stuffing inside the turkey cavity. This can lead to cross-contamination and a night at the emergency room (less dramatically, stuffing your turkey also increases the cooking time). 

End your celebration on a sweet — and healthy — note

Pumpkin, apple and chocolate pie are very popular around the dessert table. But these delicious treats don’t have to load you down with added fats and sugars. Try a pumpkin pecan pie topped with a streusel made of honey, pecans and just a little butter. Or make a chocolate-raspberry pie to add some fresh fruit to your dessert. There are many gluten-free, vegan and diabetic-friendly recipes that can be show-stopping desserts.

It’s easy to take your Thanksgiving dinner to a new level this year. Whether you’re on a special diet or just want to eat healthier, simply add healthy herbs and vegetables to your dishes and substitute high-fat ingredients with heart-healthy ones. Your waistline, blood pressure and cholesterol — and your taste buds — will thank you.

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