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Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Ideas

November 9, 2022

CHICAGO – Thanksgiving is a time for friends and families to come together to enjoy a hearty meal, but with food prices continuing to rise, some families might want to consider alternatives to the "traditional" fall turkey feast. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers some fun food ideas.

"Consider cooking a ham, pot roast, pork shoulder, ribs or other meat for the holiday to add your own spin to this year's Thanksgiving dinner," says registered dietitian nutritionist John Wesley McWhorter, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based in Houston, Texas.

With the cost of fresh vegetables on the rise, canned or frozen vegetables will give you more bang for your buck.

"Grab a bag of frozen field peas and frozen pearl onions to throw into the microwave for a quick side dish," McWhorter says. "Microwave them for four to five minutes, add some oil, herbs such as thyme, sage and rosemary and sprinkle with some salt and pepper before serving."

"Add more vegetables to your menu this year by incorporating legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains to ensure an adequate amount of plant-based protein in your meal," he says.

"Consider making a hearty vegetable soup as your main dish. I love a rich and creamy butternut squash soup," McWhorter says. "Start by roasting your squash until it's soft and then add it to the soup pot with onions, garlic, herbs, a can of white beans and vegetable broth. Once everything is cooked, blend the soup and add some pumpkin seeds for additional protein."

"Cook some cultural family favorites, either from your own culture or another culture," says registered dietitian nutritionist Monique Richard, a national Academy Spokesperson based in Johnson City, Tenn.

"Shake up your dinner with Greek, Italian, Spanish or French dishes, or a variety of each," she says. "Spice up your menu with vegetables, healthy fats, and a variety of herbs and spices, oils and seasonings."

"Make an Asian stir-fry with a side of rice," Richard says. "Make or purchase soups, dumplings, spring rolls, lettuce wraps and sushi. There are endless possibilities to get creative and explore new flavors this holiday season."

"With the price of eggs and flour on the rise, consider making simple desserts such as S'mores with chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows. You can set up a S'mores station for the little ones to stack their own. It's an easy dessert that can turn into a fun family activity," McWhorter says.

Richard recommends whipping up a pumpkin puree with whipped tofu, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg for a delicious pumpkin mousse in a flash. No eggs or baking required.

Visit for more holiday menu ideas.


Representing more than 112,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at

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