Blog Diets Healthy Thanksgiving Desserts: Recipes, Tips On Staying Healthy, and More 

Healthy Thanksgiving Desserts: Recipes, Tips On Staying Healthy, and More 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s hard not to be infatuated with the longing for that elaborate dinner spread that awaits. It is, after all, a time for expressing heartfelt gratitude, and celebrating life’s blessings — food included. 

As friends and family gather around the table, it is impossible to miss the fragrant aromas of succulent roast turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, and all those traditional delights that scream comfort and nostalgia. 

But, despite the impending celebrations, it is important to notice the changes that might’ve slowly crept in since last year. We’re talking about dietary restrictions and health-conscious concerns. Whether you’re steering towards a healthier lifestyle in general, or looking to shed a few pounds before Christmas, chances are Thanksgiving can be your starting point for a year of better eating. 

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of healthy Thanksgiving desserts that are not just finger-licking good, but also great ingredients you could use this festive season. After all, no one deserves to be deprived of that festive goodness on Thanksgiving, are we right? 

We understand, however, that ‘healthy’ means different things to different people. This is why we’ve thoughtfully crafted options for various dietary preferences, be it vegan, keto, gluten-free, or low-fat. 

healthy thanksgiving desserts  

If you’re watching your carbs with your main meal, consider the infamous cauliflower stuffing, keto mac & cheese, or keto broccoli salad. After dinner, don’t forget to indulge in sinful, guilt-free desserts like crustless pumpkin pie and keto pumpkin cheesecake. 

For those welcoming plant-based eaters, treat them to delicacies like vegan pumpkin pie, apple crisp with plant-based butter, pecan pie with maple syrup, berry crumble with oat topping, chocolate avocado mousse, and coconut whipped cream. One can also easily whip up and enjoy vegan banana bread, rice pudding, fruit salad, and chocolate truffles.

Even if you’re following a keto diet, plenty of healthy Thanksgiving desserts are still complementary to your eating plan. Consider keto pumpkin pie with a low-carb crust and sweetened with erythritol, or indulge in keto cheesecake made with almond flour and a sugar substitute like monk fruit. 

For a taste of tradition, try keto pecan pie bars with a keto crust and filling sweetened with a keto-friendly sweetener. Satisfy your chocolate cravings with keto chocolate truffles, created from dark chocolate and sweetened with options like erythritol. These desserts allow you to maintain your low-carb, high-fat keto lifestyle while celebrating the holiday season without guilt.

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What dessert do people eat on Thanksgiving?

Celebrated in the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving is one of the most important calendar events for the Western hemisphere. It is reported that the “first Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. 

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Over time, Thanksgiving has emerged as a festival of gratitude and personal growth. It is on Thanksgiving that friends and family gather together, enjoy a lavish, scrumptious meal, and express thankfulness for their journeys. 

When it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, tradition often takes center stage, and people indulge in a variety of sweet treats that have become emblematic of this holiday. While the specific dessert choices can vary by region, personal preferences, and family traditions, there are some of the most iconic desserts that frequently grace Thanksgiving tables all over the world. 

1. Pumpkin Pie

Perhaps the most quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie is a staple at most Thanksgiving gatherings. Made from a spiced pumpkin filling and baked in a pie crust, it embodies the warm, comforting flavors of autumn. Typically, it’s served with a dollop of whipped cream, adding a rich contrast to the spiced pie.

2. Pecan Pie

Another classic recipe, the pecan pie is renowned for its rich, gooey filling made from a sugary mixture of pecans, eggs, and corn syrup. The combination of sweet and nutty flavors lends it an unmissable status for all Thanksgiving meals. The crunchy pecan topping complements the sweetness of the filling and brings a certain depth to the overall flavor profile. 

3. Apple Pie

The traditional apple pie might be an American favorite all year round, but it’s during Thanksgiving dinners that this recipe finds special significance. Slices of tart apples sweetened with sugar and cinnamon are encased in a flaky pie crust and shared among friends and family. It’s usually served warm and pairs perfectly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

4. Sweet Potato Pie 

The Sweet potato pie has Southern roots but it has gained popularity across the American subcontinent as a Thanksgiving special. It’s similar in concept to the pumpkin pie but this recipe uses mashed sweet potatoes as the main ingredient, resulting in a different flavor profile. The pie is often seasoned with warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

healthy thanksgiving desserts  

5. Cranberry Sauce

While cranberry sauce is not a traditional “dessert” per se, it’s often served as a sweet side dish or condiment at Thanksgiving. Made from cranberries and cooked with sugar, this tangy-sweet accompaniment adds a burst of color and flavor to the Thanksgiving meal.

6. Cheesecake

Some families opt for a creamy cheesecake as a Thanksgiving dessert. New York-style cheesecake, in particular, is a favorite, known for its rich and velvety texture.

7. Cakes, Cobblers, and Other Sweets

In addition to the classics, various cakes, fruit cobblers, and other sweet delights may also make an appearance across Thanksgiving tables. Families often get creative with their dessert choices, incorporating family recipes and regional specialties.

It is well-understood that a variety of traditional, safe options exist when it comes to Thanksgiving desserts. However, it is also important to note that most of these recipes can be spun into a healthy or diet-friendly option that can be enjoyed, sans the guilt. Read on for some of the healthy Thanksgiving dessert recipes that should definitely feature on your list in 2023. 

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Read more: Healthy Banana Desserts: A Wholesome Approach to Satisfying Sweet Tooth Cravings

What is a healthy Thanksgiving dessert?

Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, most Thanksgiving dessert options do not favor the conscious eater. Whether it’s a high dose of sugar or an overload of carbohydrates, the choices often seem limiting. However, there are hacks to making Thanksgiving dessert healthier or more aligned with your dietary preferences.. 

So, what does a healthy Thanksgiving dessert look like? 

A healthy Thanksgiving dessert is one that allows you to enjoy the natural flavors of a recipe without compromising on your dietary requirements. This can be done by reducing the intake of certain ingredients, finding alternatives, and then some. 

We’ve listed some of the techniques to make Thanksgiving desserts better for you. 

1. Mindful Ingredient Selection

Healthy Thanksgiving desserts prioritize the use of wholesome, minimally processed ingredients. Ingredients such as fresh fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are often featured as the stars of these dishes. These ingredients provide essential nutrients, fiber, and natural sweetness without the need for excessive added sugars or refined flour.

2. Reduced Added Sugar 

One of the stand-out characteristics of a healthy Thanksgiving dessert is the reduction of added sugars. Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or stevia are often used in more modest amounts as alternatives to granulated sugar. This helps lower the dessert’s glycemic impact while still delivering the desired sweetness that’s a part of the dessert’s DNA. 

3. Smart Fat Choices 

Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, and seeds and their oils, should be incorporated into these desserts as substitutes for butter.. They not only add richness and texture but also contribute to a more balanced macronutrient profile. Replacing saturated fats with healthier options can make a dessert better for your heart health.

4. Portion Control

While it’s extremely easy to get carried away during Thanksgiving dinner, maintaining portion control is the key hack for a healthier path. Keeping portion sizes in check is therefore essential when it comes to Thanksgiving desserts. Even nutritious desserts can be calorie-dense, so it’s important to enjoy them in moderation. Smaller portions can satisfy your sweet tooth without overwhelming your daily calorie intake.

healthy thanksgiving desserts  

5. Creative Twists on Classics 

Instead of going down the traditional route, one can even experiment with Thanksgiving desserts for a healthier or diet-friendly outcome. For example, a classic pumpkin pie might be transformed into a crustless, lower-carb version using almond flour. These creative adaptations make it possible to enjoy familiar flavors, without the added calories. 

6. Balanced Flavors 

A good healthy dessert balances its sweetness with other flavor elements like spices, citrus, or natural fruit sweetness. These elements enhance the overall taste experience, making the dessert satisfying without being overly sugary.

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How can I make Thanksgiving healthier?

If you’re worried sick that Thanksgiving isn’t diet-friendly, we’ve got some good news for you! Making Thanksgiving healthy doesn’t have to be difficult, considering you’re willing to make some thoughtful choices and minor adjustments.

We’ve listed several tips to help you achieve a more health-conscious Thanksgiving:

Choosing Leaner Proteins 

The breast is the leanest part of the turkey. Some people only cook the breast only, while others serve a whole turkey. Either way, you can choose breast meat for your plate if you want the leanest choice. 

Trim the Turkey

If you opt for a whole turkey, removing the skin before serving is a healthier option. Turkey skin is high in saturated fat, and removing it can make a significant difference in the meal’s overall healthiness. (3)

Increase Vegetable Variety 

Prioritize vegetable dishes by offering a diverse range of colorful, non-starchy vegetables. Roasted Brussels sprouts, green beans, and a vibrant salad can add freshness and nutrients to the table.

Using Whole Grains 

For stuffing, bread, or side dishes, find whole grain alternatives. Whole-grain options provide more fiber and nutrients compared to their refined counterparts.

Healthier Stuffing 

Since stuffing is an inevitable feature of most Thanksgiving dinners, it is healthier to prepare it with whole-grain bread, plenty of vegetables, and by using low-sodium broth. Avoid adding excessive amounts of butter or sausage, which can be high in saturated fat and salt.

Reduced Salt and Sugar 

Instead of adding extra salt or sugar to the recipe as prescribed, experiment with herbs, spices, and naturally sweet spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to enhance the taste of your dishes.

Make Smarter Gravy

Skim the fat from the pan drippings before making gravy, or opt for a lower-fat gravy recipe. This simple adjustment reduces the calorie and saturated fat content.

Mindful Portions

To ensure you’re not overeating, you can use smaller plate sizes. Keeping portion sizes in check can help prevent excessive calorie consumption.

Stay Hydrated

Sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger, leading to unnecessary overeating. To avoid this, you can drink water to stay hydrated throughout meals. 

Healthy Dessert Alternatives

Offer healthier dessert options like fruit salad, yogurt parfaits, or low-sugar and low-fat pie alternatives. These treats can provide a sweet ending to the meal without an overload of calories.

Physical Activity

If you’re looking for an unconventional yet useful hack, try and incorporate some form of physical activity into your Thanksgiving celebration. Take a family walk or engage in a friendly outdoor football game before or after the meal to burn off some calories and encourage movement.

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Understand Moderation 

Ultimately, one must accept that they should not overeat just as a part of the festive setting. Try and diversify your meal instead of eating in bigger quantities. 

Healthier Cooking Techniques 

Opt for healthier cooking methods like roasting, grilling, or steaming instead of frying or deep-frying.

Prepare Healthy Appetizers

Serve a variety of healthy appetizers like vegetable platters with hummus, a fruit tray, or a simple soup as a prelude to the main meal.

Better Leftover Management

When packing up leftovers, choose lean cuts of meat and fill containers with a variety of vegetables to balance out the meal.

By using these strategies, you can enjoy a more health-conscious, diet-friendly Thanksgiving without sacrificing the joy of the holiday. The strategy is all about balancing and making choices that align with your dietary goals while still celebrating the season with family and friends.

healthy thanksgiving desserts  

How to do Thanksgiving on a diet?

Celebrating Thanksgiving while on a diet can be challenging, but it’s entirely feasible with the right strategies. Here’s how to enjoy the holiday while staying on track with your dietary goals:

Always Plan Ahead 

Decide in advance what your dietary restrictions or goals are for Thanksgiving. Having a clear plan will help you make more informed choices.

Stay Active 

To kickstart a day of festivities, begin with some physical activity, such as a morning walk or workout. This will boost your metabolism and make room for some extra calories.

Mindful Eating 

Pay attention to portion sizes and eat slowly. Rushing to eat often leads to overeating and can be completely eliminated if you’re being mindful. Savor each bite, and give your body time to register fullness.

Prioritize Protein

Load up on lean protein, such as turkey breast, to help you feel full and satisfied without overindulging in the carb and fat-filled dishes like mashed potatoes, desserts etc.

Opt for White Meat 

When enjoying turkey, focus on white meat, which is lower in calories and saturated fat compared to dark meat or turkey with skin. (2)

Fill Up on Veggies: 

Load your plate with non-starchy vegetables — roasted Brussels sprouts, green beans, etc. This not just gives you a colorful salad to devour but provides the essential nutrients without adding too many calories. (4)

Choose Whole Grains

If you’re having stuffing, choose a whole-grain version, which provides more fiber and nutrients than traditional stuffing.

Limit High-Calorie Sides

While it’s okay to have a small portion of your favorite indulgent side dishes, avoid overindulging in high-calorie items like creamy casseroles and mashed potatoes with butter. 

Smart Dessert Choice 

It’s impossible to miss Thanksgiving desserts, especially when the cookies, cakes, and pies are brought out. But if you’re going to enjoy dessert, choose wisely. Opt for healthier dessert alternatives or select a small portion of your favorite traditional treat.

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Stay Hydrated 

As mentioned, drink plenty of water throughout the day to help control your appetite and avoid mistaking thirst for hunger. (6)

Alcohol in Moderation

If you plan to have alcoholic beverages, it is best to drink moderately. Alcoholic drinks can be high in calories and may lower your inhibitions, leading to overeating. (1)

healthy thanksgiving desserts  

Plate Size Matters

Use a smaller plate to help control portion sizes and reduce the temptation to pile on more food.

Stay Accountable 

Share your dietary goals with your friends and family, so they can provide support and encouragement. They may even offer to prepare dishes that align with your dietary restrictions.

Focus on Socializing 

Thanksgiving is about spending time with loved ones. Engage in conversations and activities to divert your attention from overindulging in food.

Read more: 16 Healthy Pumpkin Desserts for All Occasions

Healthy Thanksgiving dessert recipes

There are several easy Thanksgiving dessert recipes that’ll give you the same joys of meal prepping. Healthy apple desserts, keto-friendly recipes, and other light dessert recipes are all available for you to pursue. We’ve listed some below. 

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

This vegan pumpkin pie is a nutritious twist on the classic. It’s made with a gluten-free crust, a creamy pumpkin filling sweetened with maple syrup, and coconut milk. With just 240 calories per slice, it’s a lower-calorie option than traditional pumpkin pie. This dessert is rich in vitamin A, fiber, and healthy fats. (5)

Healthy Apple Crisp

A healthy apple crisp offers the comforting flavors of autumn. It typically includes sliced apples, a whole-grain oat and almond flour topping, and a minimal amount of added sugar. A serving provides about 140 calories, along with fiber, vitamins, and minerals from the apples and whole grains. 

Low-Carb Keto Pecan Pie

This low-carb keto pecan pie is perfect for those following a keto or low-carb diet. The recipe often replaces high-carb ingredients with alternatives like almond flour and erythritol. A slice has approximately 320 calories, with fewer net carbs and a generous dose of healthy fats and protein.

Healthy Chocolate Avocado Mousse

A healthy chocolate avocado mousse is a delightful and creamy dessert. It’s typically made with ripe avocados, cocoa powder, and a natural sweetener. A serving contains anywhere between 80-150 calories and is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants from the cocoa.

Vegan Banana Bread

Vegan banana bread is a wholesome treat that substitutes eggs and dairy with plant-based alternatives. Made with whole wheat flour, ripe bananas, and a natural sweetener, a slice typically provides around 180 calories. It’s a good source of fiber, potassium, and essential nutrients.

Please note that the specific nutrient profiles and calorie counts may vary depending on the exact ingredients and portion sizes used in these recipes. It’s important to follow a recipe and portion recommendations for accurate nutrition information.

healthy thanksgiving desserts  


  • What are some of the healthiest desserts?

Some of the healthiest desserts include fruit salads, Greek yogurt with berries, dark chocolate, Chia pudding, fruit sorbets, and some protein bars. They provide essential nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and natural sweetness, while often being lower in added sugar and unhealthy fats.

  • Can I be healthy and eat dessert?

Yes, it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy dessert simultaneously, as long as you make mindful choices, control your portion sizes, and balance your overall diet with nutritious foods. Healthy dessert options can also provide satisfaction without compromising your health goals.

  • Is cake a healthy dessert?

While cake is not typically considered a healthy dessert, it can be given a healthy spin with nutritious ingredients. Traditional cakes are often high in sugar, refined flour, and unhealthy fats. While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy cake on occasion, it’s best consumed in moderation as an occasional treat rather than as a regular part of a healthy diet. 

For a healthier alternative, consider making or choosing cakes that are made with whole-grain flours, reduced sugar, and healthier fats, or explore other nutrient-dense dessert options like fresh fruit or yogurt with berries.

  • What desserts to avoid?

In pursuit of a healthy diet, it’s helpful to avoid desserts that are high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates. This list would include cakes, pastries, sugary drinks, candies, deep-fried desserts, and full-fat ice cream.Not only are these treats calorie-dense, they typically lack nutritional value as well. They are best reserved for occasional treats.

  • What cake is healthy?

Healthier cakes are those which include whole-grain flours for added fiber and nutrients. They swap sugar with natural sweeteners by adding fruits like apples or berries, use Greek yogurt to boost protein and moisture while minimizing fats and sugars, or opt for nut flours like almond or coconut for healthy fats and lower carbs. 

You can even consider vegan cakes with plant-based ingredients to reduce saturated fat, and include vegetables like zucchini or carrots for moisture and nutritional benefits. Dark chocolate cakes, with higher cocoa content, can offer antioxidants and less sugar.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Association Between Alcohol Calorie Intake and Overweight and Obesity in English Adults (2014,
  2. Comparative Analysis of Red and White Turkey Meat Quality (2017,
  3. Is turkey healthy for you? Read this before you gobble any (2021,
  4. Non-starchy Vegetables ( 
  5. Nutrition calculator ( 
  6. Yes, drinking more water may help you lose weight (2020, 
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