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Thanksgiving: Choose this, Not that

In this On The Menu segment, Sara Nychypor, RDN looks at some healthier options this Thanksgiving.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to holiday meals, even small changes can make a big difference to your health. Registered Dietitian Sara Nychypor from Mercy Health offers some healthy alternatives to your Thanksgiving spread.

  • Turkey is usually lower in sodium than ham, especially if you buy a fresh turkey or one not injected with saline. White meat is leaner than dark meat. 
  • Steamed or roasted vegetables are lower in fat and sodium than green bean casserole. Use olive oil and sodium-free spices to season. 
  • Fresh cranberry sauce is lower in sugar than canned sauce. 
  • Roasted sweet potatoes are lower in fat, sodium and sugar than sweet potato casserole. 
  • Homemade whole grain stuffing can be much lower in sodium than the boxed stuffing. 
  • Whole grain rolls provide fiber in place of white rolls. 
  • Pumpkin pie is a good source of fiber and Vitamin A and lower in fat and sugar than pecan pie. 
  • Good strategy if you're bringing a dish instead of hosting: bring something you know is healthy so that you can ensure you have an option to round out your meal. 

Apple Sauerkraut Stuffing

5 cups cubed seeded rye bread
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped apples
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. fresh parsley or 2 tsp dried
2 T. unsalted butter
½ cups low sodium broth
¼ cup Gruyere cheese
1/3 cup sauerkraut, rinsed, squeezed dry and chopped
¼ tsp ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spread bread on baking sheet and bake until dry to touch, about 30min. Let cool. Transfer to a large bowel. 
  2. Increase oven temp to 350 degrees until tender. Prepare baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Sauté onions, apples and garlic, add in parsley. Put mixture on top of bread. 
  4. Melt butter in pan, add to bread mixture. Add cheese, sauerkraut and pepper. Add broth to combine. Transfer to baking dish. 
  5. Bake for 30 minutes in 350-degree oven. 

Bulgur Stuffing with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts 

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 cups bulgur, rinsed
3 cups reduced sodium broth
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ tsp ground pepper


  1. Heat oil in a sauce pan. Sauté onion, celery, garlic. Add in spices. Add bulgur and stir. Add broth, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, let simmer until bulgur is tender and liquid is absorbed. 
  2. Combine dried cranberries and orange juice, microwave on high for 2 minutes. Set aside to plump. 
  3. Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes. 
  4. Discard bay leaf. Combine all other ingredients. 
  5. Note: You can make this ahead and keep in the refrigerator. Before dinner, bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

Mushroom Cornbread Stuffing

5 cups cubed cornbread
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped leeks
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T fresh parsley or 2 tsp dried.
½ T fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
2 T unsalted butter
1-1 ½ cups low sodium broth
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
¼ tsp pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread bread on baking sheet and bake until dry to the touch, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Increase oven temp to 350 degrees. Prepare baking dish with cooking spray. 
  3. Heat oil in skillet. Sauté leeks and mushrooms. Add in garlic, parsley and rosemary. Place mixture on top of bread. Add pecans and pepper and broth to mix. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. 
  4. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes, removed foil and continue baking for additional 15 minutes.

More recipes features On The Menu:


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