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Every year we do Thanksgiving at my mom and dad’s house and, of course, a big part of that is food. We actually skip traditional Turkey Day on Thursday and do the big family get-together on Black Friday or that Saturday enjoying some of these healthy Thanksgiving recipes.

Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving AFTER the official day? That’s an interesting story…

Creating Your Own Family Traditions

Years before I started to make healthy Thanksgiving recipes for my family, I used to enjoy helping my mom cook for the clan as a child. As the years went on, turns out that our family friends had conflicting events. So, for a while, my mom would host two dinner parties: one on Thanksgiving day for me and my two sisters and whoever could come; and one on Black Friday.

As you may expect from my home economics teacher mother, the Black Friday meal ended up being a full-on full-on Thanksgiving with all the bells and whistles! She initially tried to serve leftovers on Friday, but we’d have so many people over that she ended up making two full meals for the Thanksgiving holiday!

When my sisters and I got older and started to date, our significant others had stuff going on Thursday and we were always forced to choose to spend time with their families or mine. Then, one year, when our family friend, Gene (the one who inspired this delicious potato side-dish recipe!), couldn’t make Thanksgiving dinner because of schedule conflict and said he’d be there for “leftover Friday,” my mom got fed up and said “no” to Thursday Turkey Day once and for all. She decided to make Thanksgiving dinner on Friday so no one had an excuse to miss and to save her the trouble of making two meals!

Thanksgiving Fun in the Kitchen

Because our whole family is gathered together and the kitchen is busy during this time, I usually cook our turkey early. I start our bone broth when everyone else starts working on their healthy Thanksgiving recipes. Sometimes I make some of our side dishes ahead of time and simply reheat them in the turkey warmer.

To start off, we always do family pictures and have some appetizers before the meal. Then after the meal, my dad always watches football and Dr. Z usually chops wood for the fire. By the second or third game of the afternoon, everyone is always asleep in front of the fireplace and we’re ready for a Llama Llama Gives Thanks bedtime story for the kiddos!!

We also tend to have friends drop by for dessert a little later in the day. We like to have dessert a few hours after our main meal since the meal is so big, and we always have a very good variety of desserts. We enjoy healthy dessert options, and a few not so healthy ones, too! But literally we sometimes have as many as 8 pies to choose from. My mom always makes a cherry pie and an apple pie of some sort. My sister makes a cheesecake. So we just have a good variety.

I will always do something different, like a crustless cranberry pie or chocolate or organic cacao desert. I try to spice it up a little bit and do something that we don’t normally have, just so that we have a good variety. Even with all of the people that we serve, we always end up with leftovers that we eat before we head back home, or that we take with us as leftovers.

Of course, Dr. Z is passionate about health, even during the holidays! So—believe it or not—he likes to puts a huge pile of greens right on top of his pie! We always have the best time making fun of him!

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes Made from Scratch

We like to make everything from scratch during the holidays because this is such a special time for us. My mom actually has an ice cream maker, so I have made some pumpkin pie ice cream before. Also, the bread machine is a premium at my mom’s. So if I’m making stuffing, I actually start a few days ahead making the bread from scratch so I can cube it up and make the stuffing.

We’re also sure to include the kids in the process. They help with baking and any other aspect of the cooking that they can. And we also start our turkey brine on Tuesday or Wednesday. We put it into a cooler, so in Michigan, we can put it out in the garage with ice on the top. Because it’s so cold in Michigan, we don’t have to add more ice, if you can believe it! Then we let that brine for a few days, and it always yields the moistest turkeys. And when I do the bone broth, we can actually taste the essence of the herbs in the bone broth because it’s been marinating for days. It really is fabulous.

This year, we’re going to do something new. Since all of our kids love to hang out together, we’re going to have a sleepover the night before. This way, the kids can be together the whole day. And Dr. Z is going to babysit everyone on Black Friday, following the Thursday night sleepover. It’s going to be awesome!

Index of Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes:

For a list of all of my favorite healthy Thanksgiving recipes, click HERE or choose a recipe below.

  1. Herbed Turkey Brine
  2. Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy
  3. Savory Gluten-Free Stuffing
  4. Gene’s Dairy Free Scalloped Potatoes
  5. Cranberry Salad
  6. Warmed Holiday Punch
  7. Mulled Cider
  8. Pumpkin Spice Latte
  9. Vegan Pumpkin Dip
  10. Butternut Squash Souffle
  11. Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
  12. Crustless Gluten-Free Cranberry Pie


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