Healthy Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

By Kelsey Childs, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate over a delicious meal. While most look forward to sitting down at the table to begin the feast, few enjoy getting up from the table feeling overly stuffed. Estimates from the Calorie Control Council suggest a traditional Thanksgiving meal may contain as many as 3,000 calories, and once appetizers and beverages are included, the total can climb to a whopping 4,500 calories!

This Thanksgiving, use whole food ingredients in place of processed products to boost the nutrient content of your dishes and lighten the calorie load. Swapping full fat dairy products with reduced fat versions can further cut back on calories without impacting flavor. Check out the healthy Thanksgiving recipe ideas below to see if one of these delicious dishes might have a place at your table this year.

Roasted Green Beans with Cranberries

Instead of relying on canned soups to flavor traditional green bean casseroles, try this recipe made from whole food ingredients. Cranberries, garlic, lemon, and balsamic vinegar combine to pair perfectly with roasted turkey.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, stem ends trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, from one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted if desired, see note)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil.
  2. toss  green beans with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar directly on the prepared baking sheet. Roast the beans for 15 minutes, then stir with a spatula to promote even cooking. Continue roasting until the beans are tender, slightly browned and just starting to shrivel, about 10 minutes more. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cranberries and walnuts and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more lemon juice if desired.
  3. Note: to toast the walnuts, bake them on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Recipe source: Once Upon a Chef

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Use a combination of reduced fat milk and sour cream as mashed potato mixers to yield a creamy product without the need for large amounts of butter or cream.

  • 2 lbs. (4 medium) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

Directions:

  1. Put potatoes and garlic in large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil.
  2. Drain and return potatoes and garlic to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Mash until smooth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon

Instead of smothering sweet potatoes in butter and brown sugar, try roasting your potatoes. The natural flavor of the sweet potatoes is complemented by the simple coating of olive oil, honey and cinnamon.

Ingredients:

  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Lay the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on a roasting tray. Drizzle the oil, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper over the potatoes.  Roast for 25-45 minutes in the oven, or until tender.

Recipe source: Food Network

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What We’re Thankful for this Year

In celebration of Thanksgiving, members of the CHOC Children’s pediatric health care system express what they’re most grateful for this year.

child-life-specialist-with-patient
Chloe Krikac, child life specialist

“I am so grateful to work for an organization that I love, and am truly honored and humbled that I get to walk into these halls every day. I am grateful to the parents of our little ones at CHOC for their trust and for giving us the opportunity to serve them. This year, I am especially thankful for my amazing team of child life specialists. I could not imagine this journey without their loyalty, laughter and unconditional support. Happy Thanksgiving CHOC and thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what I love.” – Chloe Krikac, child life specialist

“I am so very thankful to be a nurse here at CHOC, one of the leaders in children’s healthcare. The hard work, dedication and compassion that I see in the NICU makes me proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization. I am humbled and thankful to the parents and families that allow me to care for their most precious gifts each, and every day.” – Bridgette Glass, RN, neonatal intensive care unit

angela-dangvu-md
Dr. Angela Dangvu, CHOC Children’s pediatrician

“As we at Pediatric & Adult Medicine reach the first anniversary of having joined CHOC Children’s Primary Care Network, I am grateful to be part of a health care system that is dedicated to providing the best care for children. When I came to CHOC Children’s 20 years ago as a resident, I knew it was a special place for patients, their families and the people that worked there. Though the hospital and the services that we are able to provide have expanded beyond what I could have imagined, it remains a special place for children and the people who care for them.” – Dr. Angela Dangvu, CHOC Children’s pediatrician

Dani-Milliken
Dani Miliken, RN, clinical director of CHOC’s mental health inpatient center

“There are so many things to be thankful for this year! I am incredibly thankful that I was able to become a part of the amazing CHOC Children’s health care system this year. I am thankful to get to work with the extremely dedicated care providers here who have such a passion for helping children and families. I am also immensely thankful for the community involvement in developing the new Mental Health Inpatient Center. With such strong community support and CHOC leadership commitment around the Mental Health initiative I get to be a part of something very special and for that I am truly thankful!” –Dani Miliken, RN, clinical director of CHOC’s mental health inpatient center

“I am so thankful that CHOC Children’s help to provide me the opportunity to earn my BSN this past year. I look forward to applying this knowledge to be able to better care for my patients for many years to come.” –Barbara Mazurek, RN, hematology/oncology unit

david-dukes-chair-choc-childrens-board-of-directors
David Dukes- Chair, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

“I am thankful, honored and humbled to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of CHOC Children’s Hospital. Our Board of Directors is passionately committed to see CHOC Children’s continue its rapid ascent as one of the premier children’s hospitals in the United States.  Driven by a highly talented, dedicated and passionate team of doctors, nurses and staff, CHOC provides exceptional and innovative care for every child we serve.” –David Dukes- Chair, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

chris-larry-laulhere-2“We’re thankful to CHOC for helping to create The Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department. After we met the child life specialists and saw the way they help patients navigate changes in their young lives, and the way patients interact with child life’s specialty services such as pet therapy dogs and Red Nose Docs, we knew this was the perfect gift from Cherese. If she can see what a difference she is making we think she is smiling. We have since become closer with The CHOC Foundation staff and the Child Life Department staff. Our hearts overflow with gratitude and thankfulness every time someone thanks us for Cherese’s gift.” –Chris and Larry Laulhere, who on behalf of The Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation, generously donated $5 million to CHOC’s child life department

brianna-miller-choc-childrens-patient
Brianna Miller

“This year I am thankful for CHOC for so many reasons- this has been one of the hardest years of my life, being diagnosed with and treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My care team at CHOC has been nothing short of amazing. My oncologist, Dr. Kirov, has done a great job treating my stubborn cancer and working with things often not going the way he expects. My social worker and case coordinator have done everything they possibly can to connect me to scholarships, foundations, etc. so that I can take advantage of all the resources available to me. And I’m especially thankful for Kara and the rest of the child life department for putting on fun events and always brightening my day by coming to visit me!” –Brianna Miller, patient

jessica-mcmichael-md
Dr. Jessica McMichael, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon

“Working at CHOC has been a dream I didn’t even know I had. I’m unspeakably grateful for my family, our health, and the abundance of opportunity in our lives. I try to remind myself of this every day in little ways…like if there a pile of dirty laundry on the floor that is actually awesome because it means we all have clothes on our backs. I’m grateful for my patients who show me grace, kindness, patience and humor everyday…even when they have their own struggles and frustrations. I’m grateful for the colleagues in my practice for providing me with an opportunity to grow a medical practice and serve the community. I’m also grateful for the heart work and diligence of our orthopedic residents, who I get to teach every day.” –Dr. Jessica McMichael, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon

yigit-guner-md
Dr. Yigit Guner, pediatric general and thoracic surgeon

“I am thankful for the trust of our patients and families. With the strong support of many highly trained pediatric specialists, our newly-opened all private room neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is proud to offer, among other services, lifesaving surgeries for premature infants in Orange County.” –Dr. Yigit Guner, pediatric general and thoracic surgeon

dr-kenneth-kwon-choc-childrens
Dr. Kenneth Kwon, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist

“I am grateful to be part of an integrated pediatric and general hospital where child-specific and family-centered care is so greatly emphasized. I am especially thankful to those CHOC staff members working where both children and adults are seen (emergency department, radiology department, and operating rooms), and for making quality care for children in these shared service areas such a high priority.” –Dr. Kenneth Kwon, director of pediatric emergency services at Mission Hospital, and chief of staff at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital 

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Why One Mom Is Thankful for CHOC This Year

By Karen Stapleton, CHOC parent and mom of Noah

Happy Thanksgiving! My name is Karen Stapleton, and my son Noah is a patient at CHOC Children’s. As I prepare to celebrate the holidays with my family, I’m grateful we can be together since we have so much to celebrate. I’m also grateful for Noah’s many doctors and nurses at CHOC because without them, my son wouldn’t be alive.

Noah’s birth story

When I was 29 weeks pregnant with Noah, we learned that he had Down syndrome. Another prenatal ultrasound showed an abnormality in his heart, and we were referred to Dr. Pierangelo Renella, a pediatric cardiologist at CHOC, who diagnosed Noah with tetralogy of fallot, a serious heart defect that causes poor oxygenated blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. I was scared, but having been a CHOC patient myself as a child, I knew my son would be in good hands.

Karen and Noah in the NICU, shortly after Noah was born
Karen and Noah in the NICU, shortly after Noah was born

On July 27 of last year our lives changed forever— Noah was born! I chose to deliver at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange so that my son could be as close to CHOC as possible. When he was born, there were so many doctors and nurses around. I saw Noah quickly enough to give him a kiss before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CHOC.

Shortly after birth, Noah’s care team also diagnosed him with Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes certain bones to fuse early. For Noah, that was his skull, fingers and toes.

 

A series of surgeries begins at 3 days old

Noah’s first surgery happened just three days after he was born. Due to the complexity of Noah’s conditions, the surgery was a team effort from multiple CHOC specialties. Noah’s gastroenterologist Dr. Jeffrey Ho; his team of cardiologists Dr. Renella, Dr. Michael Recto, Dr. Anthony McCanta, and Dr. Gira Morchi; his pulmonologist Dr. Amy Harrison; his otolaryngologist Dr. Felizardo Camilon; and the entire NICU team came together to prepare him and get him through that surgery.

It was a success, and 31 days after he was born, Noah finally came home! Weekly trips back to CHOC’s clinics included visits to gastroenterology, pulmonary, cardiology and craniofacial specialists. It was another team effort to prepare Noah for a second open heart surgery that he would eventually need.

gates-and-noah
Noah and his cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates

But a few weeks later, Noah had respiratory complications, which lead to an emergency open heart surgery at just 2 ½ months old. Thanks to Noah’s cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates, and Noah’s fighting spirit, he was able to come home shortly after surgery.

Celebrating Christmas at CHOC

Just days before Christmas last year, Noah had to be admitted to CHOC for respiratory failure. It was scary to see my baby sedated for 19 days. Dr. Juliette Hunt, a critical care specialist, recommended that Noah undergo a tracheostomy, where a small opening is made in his windpipe and a tube is inserted to help him breathe. Making a decision like that is hard and scary for a mom, but I had complete trust in Noah’s team, and if they knew it would help Noah breathe easier, then I knew it was the right thing to do.

edited-christmas-stocking
Noah celebrated his first Christmas at CHOC

After that, Noah started to thrive. He gained weight and became strong enough for his next open heart surgery with Dr. Gates. After a mere six days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit following this surgery, Noah got to come home again!

Even when Noah is doing well, sometimes it can be scary to care for him when he’s at home. During one of our hospital stays, I confided this fear in one of Noah’s favorite nurses, Karissa. She gave me specific tips on what to do during his tummy time and baths, and gave me the courage to care for my son. She encouraged me, and reminded me that CHOC wouldn’t advise me to do anything that wasn’t safe.

Noah and Karissa, a registered nurse at CHOC

Noah’s first birthday

All of this is a lot for a little baby to go through before his first birthday, but Noah has always surprised us and pulled through. Celebrating his first birthday meant more than celebrating his first year of life; it meant celebrating every fight Noah had won over the last year, and it meant appreciating a milestone that at times we thought we might never reach. We decided a super hero theme was perfect for his party because we think of Noah as our little super hero.

Noah celebrating his first birthday

After his birthday, Noah continued to flourish and grow! He started rolling over and actively playing, and he has not stopped smiling.

This progress allowed us to prepare for his next major surgery, a frontal orbital advancement, to reshape his skull and forehead that has fused too early due to Apert syndrome.

Before surgery could begin, the doctors needed to cut Noah’s hair to make a safe incision in his skull. We marked another one of Noah’s milestones at CHOC— his first haircut!

Noah received his very first haircut at CHOC from his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen, prior to a skull surgery.
Noah’s very first haircut happened at CHOC. He received it from his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen, prior to skull surgery.

With the expertise of his neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen and his plastic surgeon Dr. Raj Vyas, and a very short stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Noah came home again! After yet another successful surgery at CHOC, his brain can now continue to grow.

Noah has more hurdles and additional surgeries ahead of him, but even with how much he’s fought, he continues to smile. He’s not cranky and he doesn’t cry. He’s enjoying every single day he gets to be here – and that’s the life he has taught me to live too.

If Noah’s care team ever needs a reminder of why they do what you do, I tell them: My son would not be here today if it were not for each and every one of them here at CHOC. And for that, my family will be forever grateful.

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CHOC Children’s Physicians, Staff Share What They’re Thankful For This Thanksgiving

In celebration of Thanksgiving, members of the CHOC Children’s family express what they’re most grateful for this year.

thanksgiving at chocMary Green 

Registered nurse in the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s

“I could list 100 reasons why I am thankful for CHOC. I’m thankful to work at a place with such visible growth: in the number of available treatments, in the percentage of children that are surviving cancer, in relationships between patients, family members and staff; and growth visible in children as they begin to believe how strong they truly are. Even more so, I am thankful that CHOC is passionate about celebrating growth and takes pride in celebrating all of the little things.”

thanksgiving at chocDr. Joanne Starr

Medical director, cardiothoracic surgery

“I’m grateful to be part of an innovative pediatric hospital and for CHOC’s commitment to providing patients and families with access to the best neonatal and open-heart surgery in Orange County.”

thanksgiving at chocDana Sperling

Social worker, NICU

“I am thankful for two amazing teams I am privileged to be a part of:  the social services team and the Neonatal Intensive  Care Unit (NICU) team.  The compassion and dedication of both teams makes me proud to work along side them day after day, delivering outstanding care to patients and families.”

 

thanksgiving at chocDr. Kenneth Grant

Chair of gastroenterology 

“I am thankful to be working for an organization that creates an environment where our patients become our family. I am also grateful that CHOC Children’s has the foresight to invest in the innovative ideas we have to improve the health care we provide. ”

thanksgiving at chocDr. David Gibbs

Medical director of trauma services

“I am thankful for the trust of our patients and families. With the strong support of the hospital and the community, our Level 2 Trauma Center is proud to care for children in Orange County.”

thanksgiving at chocJoani Stocker

Volunteer

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to bring smiles and laughter to our patients through Turtle Talk and the playrooms. Laughter is medicine to the bones, and I am humbled to be a part of the healing. My cup is overflowing with joy when I see a patient giggle and play.”

thanksgiving at chocDr. Daniel Mackey

CHOC Children’s pediatrician

“I am thankful for the opportunity to be partnered with an excellent children’s hospital. I am also thankful for the pleasure of working with other positive people who provide outstanding care to the children of Orange County. Together we work to improve the care and services we deliver to our most important resource…our children.”

thanksgiving at chocDr. Gary Goodman

Medical director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

I am most grateful to the people behind the scenes at the hospital that do all the invisible jobs that are so important to keep CHOC Children’s running: the housekeepers, lab and x-ray technologists, bio-medical engineers, pharmacy technicians, scrub technicians, security guards and maintenance staff that work tirelessly, 24-hours a day.”

thanksgiving at choc

Dr. Raymond Wang

Metabolic disorders specialist

“I am thankful that CHOC cares for families and children with rare disorders by supporting clinical trials and translational research, and the staff who care for these families, to find treatments and cures for their conditions.”

thanksgiving at chocEric Mammen

Lead music therapist

“I am grateful that I get to witness the transformative powers of music with amazing patients and families everyday here at CHOC. So very grateful for the generous donors that continue to support our growing music therapy program. Without them we would not be able to impact the families and help them face incredible challenges with courage, smiles, and a song. Super grateful to be apart of writing a powerful song with a patient in response to his medical diagnosis- “To Life Live To The Fullest!” Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you get to spend some extra time with your loved ones around you.”

Matt Gerlachwhat choc is thankful for

Executive vice president and chief operating officer

“At this time of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for CHOC Children’s and the wonderful service we are privileged to provide for the communities we serve. I am thankful for the dedication and commitment of our physicians, associates and volunteers, who give the very best they have to give— their knowledge, skills, abilities, care and compassion— to make CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children a reality for so many in need, every day. I am also thankful for those that stand behind our physicians, associates and volunteers— their loved ones, who support our CHOC Children’s team to be the best that they can be, both at work and at home. I wish all of our CHOC Children’s family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.”

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CHOC Children’s Gives Thanks

The community of physicians, staff, patients and special visitors at CHOC Children’s has much to be thankful for this year. In addition to launching our Trauma Center and our Mental Health Initiative, we’re thankful to be able to offer best-in-class care to kids in Orange County and the greater community. A few members of our CHOC family share what they are most thankful for this year.

Berkeley, Pet Therapy Dog 

Pet therapy dog“I am so grateful for the privilege of visiting patients and families at CHOC Children’s. No bone, dog park visit, or belly scratch brings me as much happiness as seeing a smile stretch across a patient’s face when I visit. Thanksgiving especially reminds me that the CHOC canine crew is one lucky pack!”

Kimberly Chavalas CripeKim Cripe
President & CEO

“I am grateful for the privilege of working alongside the most compassionate, dedicated and brilliant team of clinicians and staff. I have the honor of witnessing our physicians, researchers and nurses advance innovative and life-saving care, securing bright futures for our community’s children. And I am humbled by the courage of our patients, who inspire me each and every day to push the limits of what is possible for them and their families.”

David DukesDavid Dukes
Chair, CHOC Children’s
Board of Directors

“I am thankful to reside in a county that is home to an excellent children’s healthcare system, and honored for the opportunity to help guide CHOC towards its vision to be a leading destination for children’s health by providing exceptional and innovative care.”

 


Melanie PattersonMelanie.PattersonIMG_0292_2
Vice President, Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer

“I am thankful for the amazing patient care staff we have at CHOC.  All are committed to every patient and family that walks in the campus.”

 

 

Lindsey Clark
Child Life Specialist

“I am thankful for a wonderful team of child life specialists. I could not do my job without each one of them. Thank you for your support, encouragement, wisdom and laughter each and every day. Each of you are making CHOC a place where kids feel safe and would want to visit again.”


Choco Bear, Beloved Mascotchoco bear

“I am thankful for weak tree branches. Yes, really! If I hadn’t fallen out of that tree so many years ago and hurt my arm, I never would have met the wonderful people at CHOC Children’s. Not only did they fix me up, but they started my longtime friendships with CHOC doctors, staff, patients and families. These relationships continue to grow and deepen every day, and I am one grateful bear.”

Dr. Nick Anas
Pediatrician-in-Chief and Medical Director, PICU

Nick Anas

“As I reflect upon the last year, I am most thankful for the incredible support and confidence provided to me by both CHOC administration and the pediatric intensive care unit team of physicians, nurses, and specialty staff with whom I have worked for so many years. It’s awe-inspiring to witness and to be part of a collaboration that is committed to excellence in the care of our patients and their families. As we approach this holiday season, I am so proud that CHOC is here to protect the health of our children.”

Karen
mom of Jordin, age 8

“I am thankful for all the employees and volunteers at CHOC, and their commitment to keeping Jordin healthy, safe and happy. This year has been one of her most challenging years with sickle cell disease. CHOC Children’s Hospital and CHOC Children’s Foundation was there for Jordin and our family to help us see through some of our darkest moments. Without CHOC we would not be able to raise Jordin to be a strong healthy young lady.”

Bill Holmes, Donor

Bill Holmes

“I am thankful for my success in business because it has given me the opportunity to support wonderful organizations, like CHOC.”

Alan Ramirez
CHOC Patient, age 10

“I’m grateful for my nurses because they help me with my medicines.”

 

 

 

Marion Van Eeden - CCMH GP of the YearMarion Van Eeden
Clinical Nurse, Pediatrics,
CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

“I’m so thankful for the privilege to work at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital and for being a part of such a wonderful team that provides excellent family-centered care for our pediatric patients. “

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