Thanksgiving Lightened Up! 7 Side Dishes and Desserts that won't ruin your diet


The Holidays can wreak havoc on your diet and health, but no one wants to quietly eat a bland salad at a feast! There are so many tips out there about eating better, but these 3 are the best:

  1. Get active that morning! There are many fun runs and turkey trots that can motivate you to walk or jog a 5k the morning of Turkey day.
  2. Watch your portions! It's okay to have a few bites of mac n cheese, but a huge scoop of everything is unnecessary and will leave you feeling stuffed and tired.
  3. Bring a healthy (or healthIER) dish.

To make the last tip easy for you, we've curated a list of 7 side dishes and desserts to lighten up your Thanksgiving Feast:



4 Smart Points, 166 calories, Serving Size: 3/4 cup

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 20 minutes


14 oz whole wheat French bread or baguette, crusts removed (weight after crust is removed)

2 tbsp whipped butter

1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion

1- 3/4 cups (about 4 stalks) diced celery

13 oz fresh sweet Italian chicken sausage, casing removed

1/4 cup chopped fresh sage

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

3 1/4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

cooking spray


Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the bread out on a baking sheet and let it dry overnight - OR - place the baking sheet in a 350°F oven and bake about 20 minutes, or until the bread is dried out. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a large baking dish with oil.

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

In the same pan over medium heat, cook the sausage, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the bowl with the onion/celery mixture.

Add the bread, sage and thyme to the bowl with the sausage/onion mixture and stir to combine. Add the chicken broth and stir to evenly coat the bread. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix well.

Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir. Continue baking until golden, about 30 to 35 minutes more. Serve immediately.


Yield: 12 Servings, Serving Size: 3/4 cup

Amount Per Serving:

Smart Points: 4; Points +: 4; Calories: 166; Total Fat: 6.5g; Saturated Fat: 2.2g; Sodium: 549mg; Carbohydrates: 19g; Fiber: 2.5g; Sugar: 2.9g; Protein: 9g


     2. Roasted Pumpkin Sage Soup

Servings:  5 • Size: a little under 1-3/4 cup • Points +: 3 pts • Smart Points:1
Calories: 137.5 • Fat: 3 g • Carb: 25 g • Fiber: 7 g • Protein: 6 g • Sugar: 9 g
Sodium: 459 mg (without salt)


  • 2 medium (6 lbs total) sugar pumpkins or pumpkin pie pumpkins
  • 1 tbsp butter (olive oil for dairy-free or whole30)
  • 3/4 cup shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups fat free, low sodium chicken broth (vegetarians can use vegetable stock)
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, plus more for garnish
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • reduced fat sour cream for garnish, (optional)


Heat the oven to 400°F. Using a heavy, sharp knife, cut the pumpkins in half. Scoop out seeds and place on a baking sheet; bake for 1 – 1-1/2 hours.

When the pumpkin is cooked and cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. This should make about 5 cups.

Add butter to a large pot or Dutch oven, on medium heat; add shallots and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add pumpkin and broth to the pot, along with sage, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered for about 15 minutes.

Blend in a blender or immersion blender and blend the soup until smooth.

(Optional) Garnish with light sour cream and sage.  Makes 8 1/2 cups.


3. Fresh Fig & Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese

Servings: 8 • Serving Size: see below • Points +: 3 pts • Smart Points: 3
Calories: 124.5 • Fat: 4.5 g • Carb: 20.5 g • Fiber: 2 g • Protein: 2 g • Sugar: 15 g
Sodium: 43 mg


  • 8 cups baby arugula
  • 8 fresh figs, washed and quartered
  • 1.75 oz semi-soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup balsamic glaze 
  • 4 tsp extra virgin oil


Arrange arugula on a salad bowl or platter, or you can divide on 8 salad plates.

Top with quartered figs and goat cheese and serve with balsamic glaze and olive oil on the side.

Serving size: 1 cup arugula w/ cheese, 1 fig, 1 tbsp balsamic glaze, 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil.






4. Butternut Squash Gratin

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour

Gratin's are usually loaded with butter and cream, this lightened version is healthier and flavorful, you won't miss all the cream! A perfect side dish for Turkey or Roasted Chicken.


  • 2 pound (1 medium) butternut squash, peeled
  • ½ cup 2% reduced fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup whole wheat or gluten-free panko


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice butternut squash into 1/4-inch thick slices. You can do this with a knife or it's much easier with a spiralizer
  3. In a large bowl, combine the milk, garlic, shallot, thyme, ½ of the parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper.  Add the squash and toss to coat. Spray a medium oven-safe casserole dish with cooking spray.  Transfer squash mixture to casserole dish and set aside.
  4. In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt butter.  Add breadcrumbs, remaining parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper.  Evenly spread breadcrumb mixture over squash, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover and broil 2-3 minutes to brown top (watch carefully because it browns quickly!)


Yield: 6 servings, Serving Size: 1/6th
Amount Per Serving: Smart Points: 4; Points +: 4; Calories: 161; Total Fat: 6g; Sodium: 250mg; Carbohydrates: 24g; Fiber: 3.5g; Sugar: 5g; Protein: 5g


5. Cranberry Pear Sauce

Cook Time: 15 minutes

An EASY 3-ingredient sauce! This is my go-to cranberry sauce for the Holidays. I love how the sweet pears compliment the tart cranberries, perfect to add to your Thanksgiving table.


  • 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled and cored, cubed small
  • 1/2 cup agave or honey*
  • 1 cup water


  1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil on high heat in a medium saucepan.
  2. When boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool before refrigerating. Serve chilled or room temperature. Makes 3 1/4 cups.


Yield: 13, Serving Size: 1/4 cup

Amount Per Serving: Smart Points: 2; Points +: 2; Calories: 61; Total Fat: 0g; Sodium: 0.5mg; Carbohydrates: 16g; Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 13g; Protein: 0g


6. Pumpkin Roll Lightened

Adapted from Joy of Baking 
Servings: 13 • Size: 3/4″ slice • Points +: 5 pt (4 pts no nuts) • Smart Points: 8 (7 pts no nuts)
Calories: 198.3 • Fat: 7.1 g • Carbs: 42.7 • Fiber: 0.8 • Protein: 5 g • Sugar: 21
Sodium: 133.9 mg



For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • non-stick spray (I used Smart Balance)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)

For the filling:

  • 6 oz light cream cheese, at room temperature (NOT fat free)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 oz fat free Fage Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar (optional for topping)


Pumpkin Roll: Preheat oven to 375°F and place oven rack in the center of the oven.  Spray a 15 x 10 inch baking pan with non-stick spray, line it with parchment paper, then spray a little more non-stick spray and lightly flour the parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, allspice, and salt into a large bowl.

Beat the eggs and sugar together in your electric mixer or hand mixer. Beat on high speed for five minutes, or until thick, pale yellow, and fluffy. (When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.)  Beat in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. Using a spatula, gently fold in the sifted flour mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, evenly spreading the cake batter with a spatula or knife.

Bake about 13 – 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake, when lightly pressed, springs back.

Sprinkle a clean dish towel with confectioners’ sugar.

Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven invert the pumpkin roll onto the clean dish towel. Carefully remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake and sprinkle lightly with confectioners sugar; roll the pumpkin roll up with the towel, while it is still hot and pliable. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Filling: Beat the cream cheese, yogurt, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth; fold in the walnuts. Refrigerate at least one hour.

To Assemble: Unroll the pumpkin roll, spread with the filling, and re-rollTransfer to your serving platter; cover and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. (You can serve this cake immediately but chilling it overnight sets the filling and makes it easier to slice.) Just before serving, lightly dust with powdered sugar.


7. Skinny Apple Cobbler

Servings: 6 • Size: 1 cobbler • Points +: 7 pts • Smart Points: 9; Calories: 261.5 • Fat: 4.7 • Carbs: 56.9 • Fiber: 4.2 • Protein: 1.9 • Sugar: 39.6; Sodium: 168.1 g 

For the Filling:

  • 2 1/2 lbs Gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4″ thick*
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp chilled whipped butter
  • 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar (unpacked)


In a large heavy pot, combine all of the apple filling ingredients and simmer on low heat for about 25 minutes, gently stirring occasionally until the apples are soft. Divide warm apples into 6 (8 oz) ramekins.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, whisk flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cutin chilled butter (must be cold) using a pastry cutter (or 2 knives) until pebble-sized pieces are formed.

In a small bowl combine buttermilk and oil; mix well. Add to the dry mixture and mix until just moistened, careful not to over-mix. Spoon the batter over the apples in the ramekins.

Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake 30 minutes, until apples are bubbling and the topping is golden. Let it stand 8 to 10 minutes before eating.

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