A Healthy Thanksgiving for Kids

Plenty of adults are branching out into healthier dishes for Thanksgiving. Quinoa-stuffed squash and radicchio salad make great foils for turkey on a grown up table. But what about the kids? How can you present healthy options that younger kids will eat?

Thanksgiving’s natural healthy foods

Roast turkey is a lean, healthy source of protein. Green bean casserole and candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows aren’t healthy dishes to go alongside that turkey. If it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without those high-fat, sugary sides, go ahead and serve them. But the kids might not have developed a nostalgic enthusiasm about those traditional dishes. 

Fix the kids’ favorites vegetables instead. You can gussy them up with Thanksgiving flavors if you want, but adults with a plateful of stuffing and mashed potatoes will probably also appreciate some simple steamed green beans and roasted carrots. Small quantities of several vegetables cooked in healthy ways can balance the more indulgent items without adding too much work to your day. Brussels sprouts, carrots, and squash can all roast together on a sheet pan.

Our Holiday Slaw is another healthy dish kids enjoy.


2 c. thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
2 thinly sliced apples
1 bunch celery, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped pecans


1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
2 T Dijon mustard

Combine salad ingredients in salad bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss salad.

Finish up with your traditional desserts, but serve children small portions. Desserts with fruit and nuts are more healthful choices than ice cream or cheesecake, but Thanksgiving is a special occasion. Just cut back on sweets before and after the big day. 

An alternative for kids who haven’t yet gotten hooked on pecan pie — make cornucopias of ice cream cones filled with fresh fruit salad.


You can enjoy a wholesome meal without becoming the host who took the fun out of turkey day. Then give kids the chance to get up and move. 

A family hike or bike ride can become a tradition kids look forward to. A game of tag takes less organizing, and any active game is good for livening up a family gathering. A stroll around the block after your meal stimulates digestion and gives family members a chance to think, talk, and enjoy nature.

Research supports the long-held tradition of taking a walk after a meal. A walk after Thanksgiving dinner will improve digestion, stabilize blood sugar, and lift moods. Even if your main plan for the day is naps and a football game featuring leftovers from the feast, take a walk first and feel great. 

It could be the start of a healthy habit.