Wellness for the Family: Healthy Thanksgiving Side Dishes

If you eat like an average American on thanksgiving, you probably don’t want to count your calories.

Most of us will eat between 3,000 and 4,500 calories that day, and a lot of those come from the side dishes.

Registered Dietician Grace Derocha, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, has a few healthier options to try.

Cauliflower Au Gratin with Tahini


  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk or milk substitute
  • 6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg, or to taste
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp smoke paprika


  1. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower, cover, and steam until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×9-inch baking dish.
  3. Heat butter in a small saucepan over low heat; cook and stir onion in the melted butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture just starts to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually pour milk into mixture, whisking into a smooth sauce. Cook until just simmering.
  4. Remove sauce from heat and stir in half the Cheddar cheese until melted; sprinkle with pepper and nutmeg.
  5. Stir in tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and paprika into cheese mixture.
  6. Place steamed cauliflower in the prepared baking dish; pour cheese sauce over cauliflower. Sprinkle with remaining Cheddar cheese.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is melted and browned, about 25 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Pear Pecan and Sausage Stuffing


  • 6 cups whole wheat bread(1 loaf or 20 oz.) cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage casings removed, chicken or pork
  • 2 pears peeled, cored, diced into 1/2-inch cubes, Bosc or Anjou
  • 1 yellow onion diced into 1/2-inch cubes, about 2/3 cup
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 cups turkey stock(or chicken stock)
  • 1 cup pecans chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sage chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons milk or milk substitute


  1. Heat oven to 275°F. Distribute bread cubes in one layer over 2 baking sheets. Bake for 25-35 minutes (stirring after 15 minutes), or until lightly browned and crunchy. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add sausage, breaking apart with a spoon. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned. Reduce heat to medium.
  3. Stir in onions and garlic; cook for 5 minutes. Add pears and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to release brown bits. Mix in pecans, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Turn off heat and stir in cream.
  4. Pour mixture into a bowl with bread, stir until well combined. Transfer to an 11 x 7 x 2-inch casserole dish, pressing down a bit with a spatula. Place dish on a large sheet pan. Cover dish with aluminum foil and transfer sheet pan to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!

For more recipes and health and wellness tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.

Categories: the four, Wellness for the Family