Thanksgiving is a lot. I’m talking about in terms of social energy required, the sheer amount of food there is to consume, and the number of questionable opinions your Uncle Joe chooses to share at the dinner table. And since we all know going into it that there is going to be a lot of that “a lot,” why not plan at least a few things that are a bit less of “a lot” —namely, some low calorie Thanksgiving foods people can choose if they want eat a few more veggies, be a little less full, or (and let’s be honest, this is the real reason for lighter sides) save room for some decadent Thanksgiving desserts. So without further ado, here is our list of the best low cal (or at least somewhat lighter) Thanksgiving foods.
- Panera Bread Autumn Squash Soup
Here’s the thing: Squash soup is the best soup and I will die on that hill. It also happens to be pretty good for you and an easy low cal Thanksgiving staple but that is beside the point because this stuff, specifically the stuff from Panera, is McFrickin’ delicious. It is more savory than a lot of store-bought squash soups but still “leans sweet thanks to the mellow flavor of the squash.” This is a thick, luxurious winner of a squash soup and a must-try if you are looking for a solid, homemade-tasting squash soup that’s only 240 calories a serving.
- Stater Bros. Whole Cranberry Sauce
This is cranberry sauce. Cranberries are a fruit so this has to be healthy right? Same thing applies to apple pie and strawberry ice cream (I mean, 0/10 dentists agree but I feel this way and that has to count for something right?). But healthiness aside, cranberry sauce truly isn’t that bad for you—it is essentially a tart, chunky, fruity Jell-O, and as I’ve said before, I could (and have) eaten this stuff with a spoon whether it was Thanksgiving time or not. This Stater Bros. cranberry sauce “has big pieces of berry that burst in your mouth” and “it doesn’t suffer from being absolutely packed with skins and seeds like some of the other whole berry cranberry sauces we tried.” If you avoid dishes with a lot of sugar, steer clear, but as low cal Thanksgiving foods go, this stuff only has 110 calories a serving.
- Roasted Root Veggies in California Olive Ranch 100% California Extra Virgin Medium Rich & Vibrant
My dad calls these roasted “rude” vegetables. Why? Literally no idea. Dads are mysterious like that. I think it had something to do with an elaborate prank back at the Thanksgiving of 2012? But I’ll never know for sure. What I do know for sure is that any roasted vegetables, including roasted “rude” vegetables, are made infinitely better by being roasted in a great olive oil, and this olive oil is about as solid as grocery store olive oil can get. California Olive Ranch olive oil “has a pure olive taste that’s rich, mellow, and balanced,” according to our tasting team, and that’s about the best you can ask for from an olive oil. Olive oil itself is known for being heart healthy as oils go (and this EVOO has just 130 calories per tablespoon). Roasted veggies drizzled with olive oil are certainly more low-cal than mashed potatoes loaded with cream and butter.
- Green Giant Simply Steam Creamed Spinach Sauced
Creamed spinach is one of those things that just sounds like it would be bad for you. Creamed anything, even spinach, has to be loaded with cals, right? Welp, I’m pleased to report that this Green Giant creamed spinach is actually a low calorie Thanksgiving food. It has just 80 calories a serving, but tastes velvety, buttery, salty, and luxurious. Editor-in-chief Justine Sterling described it as having “that touch of bitter astringency that spinach has, which helps balance out the richness. You can easily serve this in a bowl and fool your guests into thinking you made real creamed spinach from scratch.” And if you can’t lie to your friends about having made a side dish for Thanksgiving you really bought from the store, is it even really Thanksgiving? Anyhoo, go get this creamed spinach. It’s delicious.
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pederson’s Natural Farms No Sugar Added Hickory Smoked Uncured Bacon
Roasted Brussels sprouts can be a bit polarizing, that is until you slap some bacon on ‘em. Then they are pretty universally loved and still not the worst for you. And if you are going to adorn your cruciferous veggies with some beautiful bits of porky goodness, may as well use the best bacon out there, and this is the bacon Sporked believes to be that bacon. Our taste testers noted that it “packs so much rich, unique bacon flavor into every slice. Maybe it’s the hickory smoke. Or maybe it’s the humanely raised pigs.” Or maybe it’s Maybelline? Either way, ya gots to toss a little bit of this bacon with your Brussels this year—it brings a lot of flavor for only having 30 cals a serving.
- Stir-Fried Green Beans with Silver Swan Special Soy Sauce
This is definitely not the traditional way to eat green beans on Thanksgiving. That would be green bean casserole and I’m afraid that does not qualify as a low cal Thanksgiving food. So if you are looking for low cal Thanksgiving foods, you should definitely prep your green beans by giving them a quick sauté with soy sauce, garlic, shallot, and ginger. You will not be disappointed. Plus, if you use Silver Swan Special soy sauce, which we here at Sporked believe to be the best, you truly cannot go wrong. This soy sauce has “ultra-rich flavor, a hint of sweetness, and huge amounts of umami—and only 10 calories a serving. Give this a try for some lighter green beans this year.