How To Cook A Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

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Bob Hallinan

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               Giving thanks is often accompanied by a feast—as are many of our holiday meals this time of year. For a healthier twist on holiday eating, we asked Emily Newbold, MS, RDN, of the Integrative Medicine Department at the University of Kansas Medical Center, for some tips. Newbold, who will be beginning her PhD in Medical Nutrition Science at KU Med in January, encourages viewers to think about more nutrition for the calorie—not just cutting calories.

              “In integrative medicine, we think about food as medicine,” Newbold said. “Food is the foundation for our health, and our food is our biggest tool to help ourselves. We know that foods can improve our health and provide nutrients we need. We also can use foods to decrease inflammation and fight disease.”

Newbold provides three recipes for a healthier holiday meal, including Garlic and Herb Roasted Turkey; Maple Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash; and Maple Pecan Apple Crisp. (See full recipes at end of release)

Tips to make good choices, whether preparing your own foods or dining from the family potluck:

  • Pick whole, natural foods whenever possible (the less processed, the better)
  • Choose turkey, which is a great source of both protein and tryptophan, an essential amino acid
  • Skip the mashed potatoes and other high-glycemic foods
  • Choose maple syrup as a natural sweetener
  • Use olive oil whenever possible
  • Use herbs and spices, which are their own nutritional powerhouses


Maple Pecan Apple Crisp


For the apple filling:

  • 5 medium pink lady apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1 cup raw pecans, chopped
  • ¾ cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice


  1. Preheat oven to 357 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with spices and place in a 9-10-inch pie or baking dish.
  3. Using the same bowl (save on clean up!), mix all topping ingredients together until a paste forms and there are no longer coconut oil clumps.
  4. Spread topping over apples and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and crispy.
  5. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted by Emily Newbold, MS, RDN, LD, CDE from



Garlic & Herb Roasted Turkey


  • 3-pound turkey breast, bone in, skin on (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl.
  3. Rub mixture over turkey, on top of and underneath skin. Place in roasting pan.
  4. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, or until thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Remove from oven and cover with foil for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted by Emily Newbold, MS, RDN, LD, CDE from




Maple Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash


  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Maple Dijon Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together Maple Dijon Sauce ingredients.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread Brussels sprouts and butternut squash on lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat evenly in a single layer. Roast for 25 minutes.
  4. Take baking sheet out of the oven and toss with Maple Dijon Sauce and pecans. Roast for another 10-20 minutes until squash is fork tender and Brussels sprouts are nice and crispy.
  5. Toss with dried cranberries and serve.
  6. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted by Emily Newbold, MS, RDN, LD, CDE from