Nutrient-Dense Thanksgiving Delights: Simple Sides and Sweet Finales

By Jessica Campbell, MS, FNTP

Can you taste the anticipation as Thanksgiving draws near? I love this holiday! 

What better way to show gratitude than to gather with those you love and share nutritious, delicious food, while sitting down at a beautiful table for a slow relaxing celebration?

Whether you’re hosting a feast or attending a gathering in someone else’s home, I’ve got some easy, time-tested recipes for you. 

This year I’m focusing on simple sides and a couple of desserts you can prepare at home or easily bring to any celebration. 

First off, if you're cooking a whole bird, my hat goes off to you. I always recommend finding a local source for your Turkey. There are many heritage birds out there raised at small family farms that raise a clean animal. Since this is your centerpiece, it helps to follow your best chef for recommendations on how long to cook. I recommend my friend Barbie of Community Cuisine. Remember to keep all the turkey pieces and make bone broth.

Let's Dive into the Feast: Simple Sides

Brussel sprouts 

Brussel sprouts are incredibly healthy, and if you season them just right, most people, even kids, will devour them. We like to imitate garlic bread flavors with ours: olive oil, lemon, sea salt, and parmesan cheese; who can resist?

You can serve these as a vegetarian side or top them with crumbled bacon for a decadent delight!

Make a double batch of these and you can try one of my favorite breakfasts: savory oatmeal with brussel sprouts and butter. Think of oats like rice and it makes a little more sense.

Mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes, a classic comfort food, get a nutrient-dense makeover. Keep those potato skins on for added fiber and nutrients, and swap out one potato for a root vegetable medley. Whether it's celery root, turnips, or sweet potatoes, the key is to enrich them with cream, real butter, and unrefined sea salt for a filling, nutrition-packed side dish.

Green Bean Salad 

Elevate your green bean game with this vibrant salad. Garlic, olives, slivered almonds, fresh herbs, and a zesty dressing create a nutrient-dense, colorful departure from the traditional green bean casserole. A welcomed addition to any Thanksgiving spread, this dish never disappoints.

Delicata Moons 

Indulge in one of my easiest most cherished nutrient-packed recipes—Delicata Moons. Skip the peeling and let them caramelize to perfection with a hint of salt and butter. This dish honors the bounty of squash season and is so sweet it feels like dessert. Organic varieties add a delightful touch to any kind of dinner.

Time for Desserts: A Sweet Finale


This is the ultimate indulgence with a nutritious twist. Inspired by my grandmother's recipe, this nutrient-dense treat skips white sugar and processed graham crackers, opting for coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, and an almond flour cookie crust. Use the best cream cheese and sour cream or creme fraiche you can find. Make it the day before, let it chill, and savor the dense, flavor-packed delight.

Pumpkin Pie 

This pumpkin pie recipe holds a special place in my heart. Perfected over the years with my kids, it's a nutrient-dense, dairy-free, gluten-free masterpiece. Made with real pumpkin and wholesome spices, it's a comforting, health-conscious indulgence.

You can use canned pumpkin but using fresh is so much more nutritious and once you try it, you may never go back. Here’s how: 

Choose your favorite winter squash and wash it well. Cut it in half, remove the seeds, and rub it with a little butter, coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil. Bake the pumpkin cut side down in a 375° oven for at least an hour until it gives when you push on the skin. Pull it out and let it cool. 

I have found it unnecessary and too time-consuming to strain and blend the pumpkin first. If you have ample time and want to create the perfect consistency, go ahead and strain the flesh over a strainer and then blend up the thick flesh. I will take the shortcut and simply measure out the flesh and blend it in the food processor with the rest of the ingredients for my pie. I have never been disappointed. However, you may need to cook for a bit longer.

I hope you enjoy some or all of these simple and nutritious side dishes this holiday or sometime soon. Sometimes I love to just wait until the weekend after Thanksgiving to surprise my family with a pumpkin pie when we are all a little more relaxed and it doesn’t have so many dishes to compete with.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with good health, love, laughter, and the delightful flavors of the season.

Many blessings,