No Turkey for Thanksgiving? 7 Other Main Dishes to Try
For many families celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, the holiday isn’t the same without turkey on the table. But this year, some people may need or choose to forgo preparing this staple dish.
As Vox.com reports, factors including supply chain issues and labor shortages may make finding and affording a turkey more difficult than in past years.
If you’re finding this is the case, take a deep breath — and keep things in perspective. “When you think about it, what is Thanksgiving about anyway?” says Christine Palumbo, RDN, who is based in Chicago. “It’s about bringing together families and friends to celebrate and be thankful for all that you have.”
Not to mention, you have options to create a delicious (and, if you wish, healthy) meal for your loved ones with or without the popular bird. Even if you aren’t having trouble getting a turkey, maybe you’ll want to take the opportunity to serve something new to your family, Palumbo suggests.
Here, find seven festive, nutritious nonturkey main dish ideas for Thanksgiving Day that will keep you and your guests in the holiday spirit — and won’t require you to sacrifice on taste.
1. Whole Salmon
At this point, you’ve probably heard that salmon is a standout health food — and this popular fish can impress your guests, too. “Not only is salmon rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and a wide range of health-promoting vitamins and minerals, its unique color offers cooks lots of opportunities to get creative with the presentation,” says Malina Malkani, RDN, who is based in Rye, New York.
The Mayo Clinic notes that those omega-3s help decrease triglycerides and lower blood pressure. Plus, one medium fillet of salmon is an excellent source of vitamin B12 at 10.4 mcg, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and can help create healthy red blood cells and keeps your nervous system working at its best, the Cleveland Clinic notes.
2. Veggie-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Looking for a well-rounded main? “People tend to leave the table more satisfied when meals offer a balance of protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and fats,” says Malkani. And Veggie-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, like the one from Miss In the Kitchen (that’s brimming with mushrooms, onions, and spinach), fits this criteria perfectly. Protein is an important building block for your bones muscles, and blood, according to the USDA.
Not only do you get protein from the pork tenderloin — one medium slice offers more than 11 grams (g) and some fat, per the USDA — but you score loads of healthy carbohydrates from the veggies, too. On top of that, the “stuffed” look provides a dramatic visual effect for Thanksgiving.
RELATED: 15 Best Food Sources of Lean Protein
3. Baked Eggplant Parmesan
“A nontraditional dish such as eggplant Parmesan can be a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving table,” says Palumbo. It’s warm and comforting, as well as nutrient rich. Per the USDA, 1 cup of eggplant provides some fiber, which can help keep your bowel movements regular, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and if you don’t overdo it on the cheese, you can enjoy the indulgent dish while keeping your calories, fat, and sodium in check, Palumbo adds. Luckily, the Healthier Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe from Heather Mangieri Nutrition is designed to be portion controlled, so there’s no guesswork. To reduce the salt content of this dish, choose tomato sauce without salt added at the grocery store.
Still want the turkey flavor this year? “Tofurky is a soy-based turkey substitute that can be a healthy alternative on your holiday table,” says Palumbo. Tofurky is seasoned to taste like turkey, and tofu comes with a big protein punch (just like turkey), so you won’t be missing out. According to the USDA, 1 cup of tofu has almost 18 g of protein. You’ll get tons of fiber-filled veggies, too, with the Tofurky Roast recipe from I Love Vegan. If you’re trying this recipe, help keep salt content in check by opting for low-sodium soy sauce and broth.
5. Stuffed Acorn Squash
If you’re looking for a plant-based dish that brings the wow factor on Thanksgiving, look no further than stuffed acorn squash. “The dish can certainly be filling enough and festive for your guests, and healthful if it’s stuffed with the right ingredients,” says Palumbo. Per the USDA, 1 cup of cubed acorn squash provides some vitamin A, which helps with vision and the immune system, the National Institutes of Health notes. And the Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe from Cookie and Kate is loaded with wholesome ingredients, like quinoa and pumpkin seeds.
6. Roasted Whole Chicken
Want to keep with a poultry theme? Consider roasting a chicken. And if you want to really think outside the box, try Cornish game hens or even a whole duck, Palumbo suggests. “Each of these can be seasoned to your taste and roasted in the oven resulting in wonderful aroma and delicious meat,” says Palumbo. To keep saturated fat down, avoid eating the skin of any of these poultry choices.
The recipe for Perfect Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables from Lively Table brings the drama, and the potatoes, beets, and carrots provide fiber and extra vitamins and minerals. On top of that, 3 ounces of chicken give you 21 g of protein, per the USDA.
There’s a lot to love about a quiche for Thanksgiving. “Eggs — the main ingredient in quiche — are an affordable, naturally nutrient-rich source of high-quality protein which can help anchor a satisfying Thanksgiving meal,” says Malkani. Just one egg has about 6 g of protein, according to egg industry data. “Build even more health-promoting nutrients, flavors and textures into quiche dishes by adding savory vegetables,” suggests Malkani. While the Autumn Harvest Quiche from Culinary Ginger has a butter-based crust that contributes to the high saturated fat of this dish, mushrooms, leeks, and butternut squash help round things out nutritionally. Not to mention, these veggies provide plenty of fresh fall flavor.