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How to Make a Healthier Thanksgiving Dinner

While we loooove buttery biscuits and yams with marshmallows (who doesn’t?!), you can still get all those yummy, cozy flavors and textures we associate with Thanksgiving with a little more packed-in nutrients. A healthier Thanksgiving is totally possible- follow our lead. 

If you’re lucky enough to live near a farmer’s market, please, please do yourself a favor and go there a week before the big day. Chances are you’ll see carrots in colors that you don’t expect, squash in shapes you’ve never seen, and a whole lot of potatoes that wow you. November is still chock full of gorgeous produce and root veggies that have been growing underground since spring – and the jewel-toned colors of fall will make any dinner table as gorgeous as it is tasty. 

Flavor is Key

When Haven’s Kitchen was a cooking school, a lot of students shared that they would love to eat more vegetables, but they just couldn’t get their dishes to taste as savory and flavorful as they could get at restaurants. We’ve turned that problem into 3 solutions:

1. Getting a better roast on your veggies – this vastly improves flavor and texture. See our tips below! 

2. Getting the right sauce – roasted squash or sweet potatoes are fab, but even the best of them can be a little dry and one-note. So a squeeze of Golden Turmeric Tahini adds a pop of color, creaminess, and flavor that goes perfectly with the earthy undertones of the root veggies. 

3. A topper for crunch and/or chew – the final piece to hitting all the notes of that roasted cauliflower dish you had at that restaurant you love is what we call the topper – a sprinkle of crispy pumpkin seeds, a smattering of lightly pickled currants or raisins, or a pinch of some perfectly crunchy breadcrumbs. 

Vegetable Roasting Tips

Here are some roasting tips (hint – get that oven HOT) for the best roast veggies that will compete with even your favorite restaurant. Once you are in the roasting groove, the possibilities are endless for Thanksgiving dinner and beyond.

- Try blanching vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, and green beans. Boil water, add enough salt to make it taste like the ocean, then cook the veggies just until they turn bright green and get a bit tender. Immediately run them under cold water to stop the cooking. Then add them to stir-fries, pasta, etc

- If you’re sautéing  veggies, cut them into bite-sized pieces and don’t overcrowd the pan – so if you need to do a few batches, that’s ok

- Heat the pan first, then add a glug of oil, then add the veggies, and don’t bother them for a minute or so – they’ll get a little crisp and then you can toss and salt

- If you’re roasting your vegetables, make sure your oven is preheated to 425. Toss the veggies with a glug of oil and a big pinch of salt. And use parchment paper to line your baking sheets – it saves a lot of cleanup

- If you’re looking for crispy, slightly charred veggies – either from a pan or roasting, cut the veggies so more of the veggies touch the pan. We love to take the pan out of the oven and toss the veggies with any of our sauces while they’re still piping hot.

Chimichurri-Tahini Sheet Pan Salad

Crispy Parmesan Potatoes

Charred Broccoli with Dates, Romesco and Toasted Walnuts

Golden Tahini Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Squash, maple syrup, Gingery Miso, lime and sesame are a winning flavor combo.

Roasted Miso-Maple Squash

Eat Your Greens

For an additional kick of healthy fun stuff,  we think a salad is the perfect addition to a healthier Thanksgiving table. Our Vegan Kale Caesar with Chimichurri or our Chimichurri-Tahini Sheet Pan Salad work really well for holiday meals. They’re filled with rich, savory flavors, use beautiful autumn veggies, and are packed with the healthy kick you’re looking for this year. The great news is that you can make these ahead of time – so even if you have limited oven space, you can roast the vegetables ahead of time and then serve them room temp in the salad. Winter greens like kale and spinach hold up to dressing really well, so they match the heartiness of roasted vegetables and nuts and seeds like almonds and pepitas.

Get the Recipe
Simple and hearty, this vegan kale caesar eats like a meal.
Get the Recipe

It’s all about balance – but the more veggies you bring into the meal, the more nutrients you’re adding. Plus – they’re so beautiful and will add a vibrant pop to the Thanksgiving table. 

Once you have all your veggies decided, it’s also important to remember that you can roast a simple chicken or turkey breast to keep things on the lighter side. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be all butter and potatoes, and with delightful fall veggies and simple centerpiece dishes served with tasty sauces, there’s no compromising on flavor here.  One last thing— If your kitchen isn't Thanksgiving-ready, check out our list of Thanksgiving Kitchen Essentials! *Shopping through that link might earn us a commission*

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