Have a Heart-Healthy Thanksgiving: Bring Back the Veggies!

By Ashton Jackson, RD, LD/N

cornucopia-1789664_1920It’s estimated that between 6 and 8 million Americans abstain from consuming meats like fish, beef and poultry.  There is an escalating movement toward plant-based diets, and the evidence to support the cornucopia of health benefits is growing!

As a Registered Dietitian, I find that despite this trend, patients who are attempting to make this dietary transition often note accessibility to balanced (and delicious) foods outside of their own home as a challenge.  The holidays can be particularly cumbersome, not only for those who are following a plant-based diet, but also for the host who is planning and preparing the meal.  While I wholeheartedly respect the desire to keep family traditions and recipes intact, I think it’s time that we all start taking note of the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and let the holidays be no exception.

Allowing seasonal produce and protein-packed grains more room on your holiday table will wow your relatives and make your heart happy… that’s something we can all celebrate!

Here are a few recipes and suggestions for alternatives to those traditional high-fat, starchy sides and meats:


  • Skip the dairy-filled dips and cheesy bites for appetizers.
  • Create a crudité platter: pile on the carrots, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, and any other vegetable you can get your hands on.
  • Serve a colorful salad. Top “massaged kale” with roasted butternut squash, red cabbage and pumpkin seeds.


  • Resist the urge to hide your veggies in a casserole. Those haricot vert are just as tasty sautéed in a pan with a smidge of olive oil.  If you are looking for extra “oomph,” try adding the zest of an orange or a few slivered almonds.
  • Brussels sprouts are back! These cruciferous veggies are delicious when roasted with garlic.
  • Eat the rainbow! Rather than white potatoes or rice with gravy, incorporate winter squash or roasted carrots with rich spices like cinnamon or cumin.
  • Don’t forget the fruit. Apples are a great complement to roasted sweet potatoes, and pomegranate seeds add crunch.


  • Stuff acorn squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes or mushrooms with greens and grains like quinoa for a beautiful entrée.
  • Whip up a vegetarian chili and load it with seasonal vegetables.