Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Yes, I like it more than my birthday, Christmas, Fourth of July...and here's why. Thanksgiving is the start of the Christmas season, which, after fall, is my favorite time of year. It's all about bundling up, drinking cocoa, listening to Christmas music, watching Elf every weekend, and spending time with family and friends. And in my house, we're not allowed to listen to Christmas music or put up any decorations until after Thanksgiving. So I guess you could say I love Thanksgiving because it kicks off a joyful season full of anticipation leading up to Christmas. And I firmly believe that the Christmas season is better than Christmas Day itself! 

So, now you know why Thanksgiving tops my list. But there's one thing I haven't mentioned yet. THE FOOD! I love to experiment with recipes, particularly with Thanksgiving side dishes. And of course, I also love to eat - and there's no better time to do it then cuddled up on the couch watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. But as dancers, we need to be health conscious. After all, our bodies are our what keep us dancing, and we want to treat them well! Of course, there's a time and a place to indulge - and Thanksgiving is one of those times. However, there is a way you can do that without breaking your calorie bank! I've compiled a list of some of my favorite recipe ideas you can make that will leave you feeling decadent, satisfied, and most importantly, nourished and well!

1. Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing

Cornbread stuffing in a cast iron pan

Thanksgiving can sometimes feel like a bit of a bummer if you're gluten-free, between all the rolls, cookies, and pies. But don't despair - there are more and more options for those of us who need to avoid wheat! This one is particularly delicious and easy to make. Simply purchase a box of gluten-free cornbread and make it beforehand. Combined with Italian sausage, and some spices, it's sure to delight any of your Thanksgiving guests, gluten-free or not.

2. Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup

spoon in a bowl of pumpkin soup, with roased sunflower seeds
 Photo: Valeria Boltneva

I was 16 when I had pumpkin soup for the first time, and we had just arrived in Vienna in the dead of winter to visit some family. My aunt greeted us at the door, and I could smell its delicious scent wafting down the hallway. Now, ten years later, it's one of my favorite things to make. It warms you right down to your toes, and is gluten-free AND vegan. And it's great for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving as well, as your tummy is returning back to normal!

3. Layered Sweet Potato Casserole

Layers of red and yellow potatoes in the shape of a flower

Veggie friends need love too! Even though they may not be partaking in the main event 🦃, that doesn't mean that they can't indulge! This recipe is sure to not only please their taste buds, but dazzle their eyes as well. This is a fun substitute (or addition!) to mashed potatoes. While it takes a little more time to make and requires a good bit of chopping, the end result is certainly worth the work.

4. Gingered Green Beans

Long string beans cooked with pieces of garlic on a plate
Photo: Petrina Tinslay

This is a lighter alternative to the traditional green bean casserole. Instead of piling on loads of high-calorie mushroom soup, this recipe utilizes olive oil, garlic, and ginger to pack a delicious punch. Plus, ginger is great for your digestion, meaning that you'll end your day of feasting feeling happy and healthy! 

5. Caramelized Spiced Pears

overview of 3 see-through bowls with caramelized pear slices and vanilla ice cream

Let's be real - dessert is one of the best parts of any holiday. And lucky for us dancers, there are plenty of options that will fill your sweet tooth in a healthy way. Though people usually think of apples as the go-to baked dessert fruit, pears are also a great option! The caramel coating on top of these warm pears will end your holiday on just the right sweet note. 

Do you have any favorite recipes of your own? Leave me a comment below - I'd love to try them! I hope you have a delicious, full, and happy holiday season.

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