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Thanksgiving Made Healthy

Thanksgiving is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than bringing some new and improved recipes to the table!  The holidays are filled with good food and great family.  However, many holiday dishes are high in fat and calories, and we often don’t exercise as much.  Here are some healthier versions of your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes and some tips on how to easily fit a little exercise into your holiday routine!

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

Substituting cauliflower for potatoes is an excellent way to lighten up this holiday side dish!

Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Serves: 2


  • 1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 3 roasted garlic cloves or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp fresh chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Fill a large saucepan with about an inch of water and insert a steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil, and add the cauliflower florets. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, allowing the cauliflower to steam for 6-8 minutes, or until fork tender.
  2. Drain the steamed cauliflower, and transfer to the bowl of a large food processor. Add in the seasonings, and process to your desired texture.
  3. If additional liquid is needed to facilitate blending, feel free to add a splash skim milk or water, and adjust the seasonings to your taste. If you prefer, add 2-3 ounces of your favorite cheese. Also, if you’re serving a group of mashed potato fans, you may want to double or triple this recipe.
  4. Serve warm and enjoy!

Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie

This dessert combines the ever popular pumpkin pie with less calories and fat!

Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes (including freezing time)

Serves: 10



  • 30 small gingersnap cookies
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tbsp canola oil


  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pints (4 cups) frozen low-fat vanilla ice cream, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan with cooking spray.
  2. To prepare crust: Combine gingersnaps and raisins in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add oil and pulse until blended. Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the crust until set, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To prepare filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. Add ice cream and stir until blended. Spoon the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Let the pie soften slightly in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Wild Rice (or quinoa) Stuffing

Dietitian's tip: This stuffing recipe uses wild rice instead of bread; however, if you're feeling more adventurous, substitute quinoa for the rice!

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Serves: 12


  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice (or equal amount of uncooked quinoa)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped apple (including peel)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted


  1. Rinse wild rice two or three times, until the water runs clear.
  2. Place wild rice and water in a 1 1/2 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, stirring frequently. Cook wild rice for about 30 minutes. (If you're using quinoa, cook it for about 15 minutes.)
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add onion, mushrooms, apple, cranberries and celery. Stir and heat through until tender. Add the salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Continue to stir and cook slowly until fragrant, about 10 minutes total.
  4. Combine the rice, fruit and veggie mixture, and chicken broth in a large bowl. Use to stuff turkey, or bake in a dish coated with nonstick spray. Cover and keep warm in oven until serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of toasted almonds.

Think you’re too busy to fit exercise into your holiday schedule? Seek out these quick tips:

  • After dinner, help clear the table and do the dishes! This gets you moving and decreases your chances of going back for more food after you’re full.
  • Suggest to your family that you all play charades or another active game!
  • If you’re spending the day shopping, park as far away from the mall as you can to get a few more minutes of walking in.
  • Take the kids sledding or ice skating, and make sure you join in on the fun!
  • Ask your family to join you on a holiday-themed 5k race! Everyone can dress up for the event, and then celebrate with good food afterwards. Most often the fees for 5k races go to a local charity!

With a little guidance, it’s easy making the holidays a little healthier!

Stay warm, Salukis!

Your University Housing Nutrition Team
Residence Hall Dining

Emily Feagans
Dietetics Graduate Assistant

Cecily Haase
Undergraduate Nutrition Intern