10 Light and Tasty Side Dishes You Need to Serve This Thanksgiving

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This Thanksgiving , avoid that too-full feeling and take a walk on the lighter side. These healthier alternatives to classic side dishes will give you more room in your stomach, so you can make more room on your plate!

1. Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Fact: You can't have Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce. But the commercial stuff is usually loaded with sugar and preservatives. By opting to make your own, you can use flavor-superior fresh cranberries and adjust the sugar to taste.

Three ingredients. Three steps. Cranberry sauce doesn't get any simpler, or more delicious. We'd say it goes great on leftover turkey sandwiches, but we have a feeling there won't actually be any leftovers.

2. Braised Green Beans

Most green bean casseroles are so coated in cream it's pretty hard to call it a vegetable dish. For a lighter option that still tastes great, try making braised green beans with a smashed tomato vinaigrette. The slow-cooked veggies are brimming with flavor already, but the vinaigrette gives them a zingy finish that balances other heavy Thanksgiving fare. 

Green beans may seem like an overdone side dish, but braising them with a punchy vinaigrette gives the veggie a fresh lease on life. Make this recipe and see just how often you want to pair 'em with every meal.

3. Cauliflower Rice

Did you know you can make a healthier rice (that's lower on the glycemic index) using cauliflower? All you need is a head of cauliflower, a food processor and some spices. This cauliflower rice also happens to be vegetarian and vegan-friendly, so you can make it anytime you're serving a crowd.  

When you're looking for a light and healthy side dish, nothing could be easier than cauliflower rice. All you need is a food processor! Serve it with a simple baked chicken or as part of a big Thanksgiving meal — either way, you'll have happy eaters in no time.

4. Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

Seriously, Brussels sprouts don't have to be boring! For this dish, the veggie is slowly roasted, then finely cut and combined with farro, onion, cranberries and pecans. Toss it all in a mustard vinaigrette for a lively alternative to cream-based sides. 

Say hello to your new favorite side salad. This dish showcases the best of Brussels sprouts by skipping the blanching and ramps up the flavor with a good roast. Pair it with a honey mustard dressing and even Brussels sprout skeptics will be converted!

5. Sweet Potato Soufflé 

A sweet potato soufflé has plenty of spice to make it taste nice, yet a relatively low amount of sugar. Whether served in individual ramekins or out of a large dish, it's an elegant option for your table. 

You've mastered the classic sweet potato casserole, now try your hand at another spud-tastic dessert: sweet potato soufflé. It's just sweet enough to highlight the natural flavor of the potatoes, and it's light, airy texture ensures you'll have plenty of room for a second serving of Thanksgiving turkey later on.

6. Honey Roasted Carrots

Coat baby carrots with a seasoned mixture of honey and orange juice, then roast to perfection to create this stunning side dish. The toppings will caramelize into a glaze, giving the carrots crispy edges and irresistible flavor.

Carrots are a total rock star for holiday meals. First of all, they're a really festive color (sorry, spinach). Plus they're naturally sweet, which is just what we crave for a big celebration.

7. Broccoli Tots

For a more casual affair (or as a fun option for kids), serve these homemade broccoli tater tots with your turkey. They're a lot lighter than heaps of potatoes, not to mention a creative way to sneak veggies into your meal.

Good-for-you tots? Oh, yes we did. Aside from packing in some of our very favorite greenery, these tots are naturally gluten-free and vegan, AND they're baked instead of fried. You're only four ingredients away from a flavor-filled veggie paradise.

8. Hearty Whole Grain Bread 

Serving a hearty whole grain bread on the side ensures your guests get some valuable whole grains and fiber alongside their Thanksgiving meal, encouraging everyone to rest and digest. Post-dinner movie, anyone?

There are so many different types of bread, but only one subgroup boasts a nutty, full-bodied flavor packed with nutrients: whole grain. It's exactly how it sounds — the whole kernel of a grain is included (bran, germ and endosperm), and it can be ground or cracked. But no part of the grain is actually extracted or removed, which is why it retains all its nutritional value.

9. Sweet Potato Toast

Instead of loading up on baked potatoes or a mashed variety ladled with butter, sub in toasted sweet potatoes. Not only is this spud delicious on its own, but you can also mix and match toppings before you serve.

Are you still eating toast for breakfast? It's time to try something new: sweet potato toast.

10. Hearty Harvest Salad

This seasonal salad is both hearty and healthy thanks to a mixture of spinach, lentils, toasted hazelnuts and roasted butternut squash. Drizzle it all in a homemade dressing and you're done!

It's official: fall is here. I know because I just roasted a squash. And of all the many rituals that mark the change of seasons, this one seals the deal for me. Once you roast a squash, there's no going back.

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10 Light and Tasty Side Dishes You Need to Serve This Thanksgiving