Thanksgiving Stuffing That Won’t Stuff You

Mj 618_348_tk awesome stuffing

The holidays are absolutely a time for loosening our belt and allowing some delicious indulgences. And whether your family prefers to call it stuffing or dressing (it’s all basically in the prep), there's ways to lighten up the dish and make it as satisfying as ever. 

Choose whole grains
Choose a whole-grain bread to boost fiber such as whole-wheat sourdough or a true multigrain bread, with whole wheat being the first ingredient, suggests registered dietician nutritionist Jessica Levinson. For those who are gluten free, you can choose a gluten-free grain, such as wild rice, or quinoa for added protein. Even consider a cornbread stuffing for a nice Southern spin on the traditional variety. 

Watch the salt
Too much salt is terrible for your health (not to mention holiday photo bloat), and it’s hidden all over the holiday table. It is important to remember to use low-sodium stock to reduce sodium intake, says Levinson.

Load up on veggies
 The best stuffing ups your veggie quotient, to maintain a nutritional value. But even that has its calorie dangers. “Sauté vegetables such as carrots, onions and mushrooms in olive oil, not butter,” says Levinson.

Add lots of fresh or dried herbs
To add flavor without adding more salt (sodium) and fat, fresh or dried herbs are the way to go, says Levinson. Some great fragrant herbs to use are rosemary and thyme. Increasing your use of herbs and spices may also help you avoid using too much butter or cream.

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Quinoa Kale Stuffing
"Quinoa is a very versatile and very healthy ingredient to use in your holiday sides. You can use it in a stuffing or simply sauté it with some roasted squash for a flavorful and healthy holiday side dish!" says Adin Langille, Executive Chef, David Burke Fabrick


  • 4 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 3 cups of rough chopped Tuscan kale
  • 4 cups cubed whole wheat bread
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts 
  • 4 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 4 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 4 tbsp olive oil



Mix all ingredients in a bowl, then press into a casserole and bake at 350º for 30–45 minutes.

Healthy Bison Stuffing

 Bison has a slightly sweeter and richer flavor than beef, while being naturally flavorful and tender. It's leaner, being lower in both fat and calories, than beef, making it a tasty way to switch up your traditional meat-based stuffing.

"There are so many amazing family traditions when it comes to the holidays. Most are not the most healthy, and, hey, we all want to splurge around these festive times. But if you can take a few steps to give yourself an advantage you can make it through relatively unscathed — or have that extra slice of pie! Here is a healthy, seasonal take on stuffing… or is it meat loaf… or is it a veggie side with some healthy, lean bison to give it a punch? It's easy to prepare, so give it a taste and decide for yourself!” says Chef Mark Estee of Campo ( in Reno, Nevada. 


  • 1lb of ground Durham Ranch Ground Bison
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices wheat bread (can be gluten free)
  • 2 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
  • ¼  cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sautéed onions
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Couple dash of Tabasco Sauce
  • Couple dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 large or 2 medium winter squash (we used butternut)
  • 1 bunch green chard, stems and leaves separated, cleaned and washed 


1. Heat oven to 350º. Soak bread and milk in a small bowl.

2. In a large bowl mix bison meat with eggs and crumble the bread with your hands.

Add the mustard, cheese, onions, thyme, parsley, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

3. Line a roasting pan with foil and split a butternut squash or any other type of winter squash. Scoop out seeds and some flesh to make a nice well to hold the stuffing. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place skin side down and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip over squash.  Stuff with bison mixture.  Return to oven for 20 minutes, until the stuffing is cooked thru and squash is tender.

4. While squash is roasting, sauté 3 T thinly sliced garlic in olive oil. Add the scooped squash flesh.   Add 1 bunch of cleaned and chopped green chard stems. Cook for 15 minutes, add chopped chard leaves and wilt.  Season with salt and pepper. 

5. Plate squashes with chard and serve with a little gravy!


Raw Thanksgiving Stuffing
"The fact that this raw stuffing does not contain any saturated animal fats or cholesterol already puts you ahead of the game.  The fresh chop of autumn fruits and vegetables like apples, citrus, celery and fennel provide a full spectrum of whole food vitamin sources but it is really in the seasonal ingredients where the health benefits of this dish shine," says Executive Chef Dreux Ellis of Cafe Gratitude, a group of 100% organic plant-based restaurants.

Pecans are a great source of magnesium, which reduces the risk of stroke, and they are also rich in phosphorus for healthy teeth and bones. Additionally, pecans are rich in fiber, which boosts heart health and combats the risk of coronary heart disease. "Our other seasonal star is the cranberry which is a powerhouse of phytonutrients that are well known for their impressive antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties," says Ellis.


  • 1 pack (7.5 oz.) fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • 4 cups diced apple (Fuji or other heirloom varieties)
  • 2 cups pecans (pieces or chopped halves)
  • 2 cups celery (thinly sliced)
  • diced fennel bulb
  • green onions (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs (oregano, marjoram, rosemary), finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime (fine chopped)
  • 1 tbsp Himalayan or sea salt
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½  cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup olive oil


1. In a food processer with an “S” blade, pulse together the fresh cranberries and walnuts. Do not over process — the mixture should be slightly chunky.  

2. Transfer into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. The stuffing is even better once it sits overnight.

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