I’m a Nutritionist and This Is What I Bring to Thanksgiving
Brierley Horton, M.S., RD is a dietitian nutritionist, content creator and strategist, and avid mental health advocate. She is co-host and co-creator of the Happy Eating podcast, which breaks down the connection between food and mental wellness.
Recipe by Breanna Killeen, M.P.H., RDN
Thanksgiving is without a doubt my favorite holiday. But—perhaps surprisingly—it’s not for the nostalgia of your traditional Thanksgiving dishes, or at least not entirely.
Thanksgiving is uniquely special because it’s the only holiday that brings people together over a shared meal—and nothing else (I’m looking at you Christmas and all of your gift buying and present wrapping). That’s why I love it! Sure, sure, we watch football and we carefully tip-toe around different political views just like the rest of America (and last year my nephew and I whooped everyone in cornhole)—but for my family, we mostly cook and eat.
My love affair with Thanksgiving started many years ago and it was the cooking that catapulted me head over heels for that Thursday in November. Growing up, my brother and I always spent Thanksgiving with my dad. I was the sibling who loved a good “debate” (wink-wink) with my dad and—looking back—I pushed his buttons a little too much. But Thanksgiving day was sacred—my dad and I spent the entire day in the kitchen cooking. We set out all of the ingredients, we planned the order in which we’d prepare each dish, and we worked side-by-side on everything. No dividing and conquering. It was a team effort and I loved it. Even the year that we tried cooking the turkey in a brown bag and it caught on fire was fun.
These days I’m almost never the host for Thanksgiving. It’s a different season of life. But it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving for me if I don’t spend time in my kitchen and bring a dish to share. So what do I usually bring? A vegetable, of course. Yes, because I’m a dietitian nutritionist and this is usually what’s expected (and requested) of me. But I’ve also always been a vegetable lover and so much about Thanksgiving is, well, brown, so I like to add some color.
A few weeks ago, I was telling my friend Breana Killeen—who is a chef and also a registered dietitian nutritionist—about the broccoli casserole my dad and I spent about a decade perfecting and how I was in need of another vegetable-filled casserole option for Thanksgiving. (I don’t want to be a one-trick pony!) We put our heads together to bring you this Cheesy Brussels Sprouts Casserole—and because I tend to not follow recipes these days, but cook by feel—Breana turned our brainstorm session into a legitimate recipe.
It’s the perfect combination of green veggies, cheesy and bubbly filling, and doesn’t skimp on that classic casserole crunchy top. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser, in my opinion, and for those of us veggie-lovers, you get a hefty serving of Brussels sprouts, which are generous in fiber and anti-inflammatory compounds. In case you’re interested in my other dietitian tips and tricks for Thanksgiving, here are three things I always do:
Get hydrated. I start most of my days, but especially holiday days, with my largest water bottle and mix in my favorite electrolytes. That combination helps me keep my mood and emotions in check and helps to balance my appetite.
Start with protein. The first thing I eat—whether it’s a snack or the big meal of the day—is protein. It might be in the form of some cheese, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, or I’ll steal some slices of turkey or ham. Starting with protein, though, is key for me to keep my energy up (and keep my blood sugar from rollercoaster-ing) throughout the day. (Read more on why here.)
Move a little. A little activity goes a long way. I’m always a fan of a walk after the big meal, but last year we got moving with a family cornhole tournament. Or, in past years, my brother and I have started our day with a short run together!
Now, for that recipe…
Check out our Thanksgiving recipes collection for more mouthwatering side dishes and beyond!