Thanksgiving sides: Make them your meal

Canadian Living

Thanksgiving sides: Make them your meal

Family events can be tough. Forget the fact that your siblings bring out the five year old in you and your parents may bring about the angsty teenager in you, what about all the efforts and hard work to stay riding on your health train? You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to recognize that the typical Thanksgiving meal, loaded down with turkey, heavy and hearty root vegetables - mostly potatoes, and stuffing, all topped off with butter and sugar-rich pumpkin pie may leave you weighed down, not just by the food but with regret, discomfort, and more than likely, some indigestion. Despite the fact that this may be the one time of the year that you let go of your will and eat freely, that doesn’t mean it can’t still do your body, and your overall health some good.

Guest post by Meghan Telpner, Certified Nutritionist and Chief Love Maker of her blog Making Love in the Kitchen


My best advice, therefore, is to stick with the side dishes. Choose carefully and load up on the lighter options and only take small portions of the heavier, more decadent delights. If you are going into this family-friendly, food loving holiday of gratitude with a dietary regime that is different from the rest, no need to bring more attention to your habits. Contribute to the feast with a dish or two that could absolutely serve as your full meal, should nothing else on the table work for you. Bring enough for everyone to try and that way, you get to eat right along side everyone else, perhaps inspire a few healthy choices in those around the table with you and not have to work your bottom off the rest of the week to make up for one indulgent dinner. Here are some of my favourite Thanksgiving Feast creations. Season appropriate, taste-bud delighting and wonderfully health promoting. 

Yummy pumpkins


Harvest Time Pumpkin Soup

A little tip when it comes to cooking with pumpkin. Peel the pumpkin with a great vegetable peeler before you start trying to cut it into pieces. Makes the whole process much easier, plus you waste a whole lot less pumpkin. And save the seeds. You’ll want to toast those up later! 1 large onion, coarsely chopped 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped 2 carrots, coarsely chopped 1 large leek, coarsely chopped 2 cups pumpkin, fresh, cooked or canned 6 cups water 1 tsp cumin powder 1 tsp cinnamon pinch of clove pinch of nutmeg sea salt to taste Add all ingredients into a stock pot over medium high heat. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes and remove from heat.Let cool for 15 minutes. Puree soup in blender and return to pot, add sea salt and/or cayenne to taste

Whole Grain and Pumpkin Seed Unstuffed Stuffing

For this recipe I love to use quinoa as the grain and protein as the seed as they are both incredibly rich in protein. This means that this little unstuffed stuffing (no need to cook it in the bird), can actually serve as a complete and satisfying plant-based main course. If you have other whole grains or seeds you love to use, go nuts (or seeds)! Millet and brown rice make great grain options, as do chopped pecans or sunflower seeds as pumpkin seed alternatives. Mix and match and make it your own. 1 cup quinoa (or whole grain of choice) 2 cups water 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped 2 cups broccoli, coarsely chopped two large handfuls baby spinach 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, or nut/seed of choice 1/4 cup dried cranberries 2 Tbs honey 2 Tbs olive oil sea salt and pepper to taste Using a fine mesh sieve, thoroughly rinse whole grains until water runs clear. Place in pot. Add water, chopped onion and garlic. Cover pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 10 minutes. Add chopped broccoli on top of simmer grains and cook for another 10 minutes. While cooking, lightly toast pumpkin seeds on low to medium heat in a dry pan. Remove once they become fragrant but not too browned. Once all water has been absorbed, turn off stove, add spinach and cover. This will allow spinach to steam without getting overcooked. Stir in olive oil and honey. Add in cranberries, sea salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.




Honey Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

Why use your grandmother’s recipe that is loaded with white sugar and packets of pectin? Pectin is naturally occurring in apples and so apple sauce works great to help thicken (and naturally sweeten) your cranberry sauce. This recipe also works great with other berries to make jams or fruit butters (just purée for the smooth butter texture). 4-5 cups of cranberries, thawed 1 cup of apple sauce (go with organic, unsweetened, or make your own) 1/2-3/4 cup honey 1/2 cup sucanut or organic unprocessed sugar of choice Throw all ingredients into a pot. Bring to a boil while stirring (uncovered). Reduce to a simmer uncovered and continue to stir occasionally. Leave it to cook down to about 1/3-1/4 of its original volume. It will thicken as it cools too. Once desired consistency is reached (about 30 mins of simmering), pack into a clean jar and store. You can use traditional canning methods or my fave method, put it in the freezer until you're ready to use it.

Maple Roasted Vegetable Medley

One of my autumn and winter favourites! This can be made with nearly 100% local ingredients and can also be added to your favourite beans to make a complete meal. 1/2 sugar pumpkin, sliced and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes 2 sweet potatoes, sliced and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes 3 carrots, sliced 1 bell pepper, sliced 1 red onion, sliced 2 stalks celery, sliced 4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped 2/3 cup maple syrup 2 Tbs grated ginger root 2 tsp paprika 2 tsp thyme 2 tsp sage 2-3 Tbs olive oil sea salt and cayenne to taste Additional options: add in whatever veg you might have lurking about in your fridge - green beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, fennel… All work great! Preheat oven to 400. Toss all ingredients together and transfer to a roasting pan or parchment lined cookie sheet. Place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove, toss with a wooden spoon and replace in oven for another 20- 30 minutes, until pumpkin is tender. Add sea salt, cayenne to taste. Serve hot out of the oven or at room temperature.


Thanks, Meghan!

Meghan Telpner

Meghan Telpner, Certified Nutritionist and Chief Love Maker of her blog Making Love In The Kitchen, delivers a refreshingly realistic approach to nutrition and healthy living. Based in Toronto, Meghan is the director of The Love In The Kitchen Academy cooking school as well as Nourish Your Soul Holidays, leading healthy living retreats world-wide. With humour and passion, Meghan inspires people to take a look at their lives and to start living their dreams now. Meghan's enthusiasm, charisma, positive energy and dynamism are truly motivating and inspiring


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Thanksgiving sides: Make them your meal