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5 Thanksgiving Appetizers to Assuage Awaiting Guests

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be as stressful as it is rewarding. Planning a feast for a crowd includes many working parts: the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, side dishes, and pies. Unfortunately, the importance of Thanksgiving snacks often falls by the wayside in the rush to complete other aspects of the Thanksgiving meal. However, providing light treats to enjoy during the enduring wait for dinner will ensure your guests stay happy while they wait.

Tastes that Meet the Thanksgiving Mood

Are yams and sweet potatoes the same thing? We'll never tell!

When planning your Thanksgiving spread, it is best to think about snacks as a seamless part of the rest of the meal. Think about the core flavors of Thanksgiving, and plan snacks to complement those flavors. For instance, tortilla chips and nacho cheese might be the perfect accompaniment to your Super Bowl party, but they likely wouldn’t fit in at the Thanksgiving table.

Every family has their own unique take on a Thanksgiving meal. In general, it is best to stick with the theme of foods that are fresh and seasonal in your area during the fall. For much of the United States, this means root vegetables, pumpkin and other squashes, cranberries, pears, pomegranates, persimmons, or sweet potatoes may make an appearance at your Thanksgiving table (Fruits and Veggies: More Matters, 2016). A fall spice profile such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice is good to keep in mind when planning your snacks.

Nutritional Considerations for Thanksgiving Snacks

Given the variety and number of foods present on a typical Thanksgiving table, it is best to keep snacks as simple as possible. Your goal is to provide something for guests to nosh on without overwhelming their palates or making them full before the main course arrives. Thus, filling treats such as nuts, a meat and cheese tray, lox, or bacon-wrapped dates are likely too heavy.

Instead, focus on Thanksgiving treats that provide no more than 100 to 200 calories per serving while containing more carbohydrates than fato or protein. This is enough to whet your guests’ appetites without increasing satiety (Rolls, Hetherington, & Burley, 1988).

It can help to provide tiny appetizer plates or mini-bowls near the snack area. This will keep people from loading up on snacks and spoiling their appetite for the main course.

Consider Timing When Coordinating Snacks with the Main Thanksgiving Meal

Try not to serve snacks immediately before serving much better food. This isn't Olive Garden.

If you are hosting a day-long event, it is nice to have light snacks available after the main meal in case people get hungry again. Having a snack station set up in a corner throughout the day can be a great way to allow your guests to regulate their own snacking preferences.

Top Thanksgiving Snacks to Enjoy This Holiday

One of the best ways to come up with Thanksgiving snack ideas is to think about your favorite hors d’oeuvres from throughout the year. Then, think of ways to give your favorites a special fall twist. New spices or fall ingredients are a great way to dress up an old classic. Or, consider the following Thanksgiving snacks:

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

These pumpkin seeds are about to get ROASTED. What's the matter, seeds? Couldn't afford dirt? BURN!

Although pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, they are also light enough that they make good Thanksgiving snacks. This is a great way to use up the seeds from a fresh pumpkin used to make a pie. Simply wash, dry, and roast the seeds until toasted (Abonour, 2015). A drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt completes the dish. Adding a bit of smoked paprika or curry powder are other great options for extra flavor.


Popcorn is an ideal Thanksgiving snack: corn fits with the harvest theme, yet a handful of popcorn contains relatively few calories. If you want to add a nice touch, drizzle popcorn with a buttered rum mixture and stir in dried cranberries (Abonour, 2015). Provide small cups or dishes to help people with portion control.

Chlorella Guacamole

Holy Moly! That's good guac!

Guacamole is a crowd-pleasing appetizer. In this recipe from our Registered Dietitian, chlorella is added to mashed avocadoes for an extra antioxidant boost. Chlorella is a type of algae that is full of chlorophyll and beneficial micronutrients. Chlorella enhances the beautiful green color of this guacamole without compromising its classic flavor. Serve the guacamole with your favorite corn tortilla chip, or provide chopped vegetables (e.g., carrots, celery, peppers) for dipping.

Baked Parsnip Fries

Parsnips are an often-overlooked root vegetable for the Thanksgiving table. Although typical fries are laden with oil, these fries are baked (Gold, 2012). Plus, parsnips have a lower glycemic index than potatoes (Harvard Health Publications, 2014), meaning that they will not cause blood sugar to rise as much. This is particularly helpful if you have diabetic guests at Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Seed Salsa

Garnished with garbanzo beans, this pumkin seed salsa pita makes for a tasty treat.

Pumpkin seed salsa provides an earthy flavor that fits perfectly with the rest of the Thanksgiving meal. Plus, it is simple to make, coming together in just 10 minutes. The salsa contains roasted pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, garlic, cayenne pepper, olive oil, and fresh cilantro. It is the perfect Thanksgiving snack when served with crispy pita chips or on a sliced flat pita bread.

Whet Appetites with Select Libations

It’s also important not to forget about refreshments. The best refreshments for Thanksgiving are beverages that can be made in large quantities ahead of time. Again, try to avoid any beverages that are too heavy or calorie laden. Consider the following ideas (Food Network, 2015):

Let's all just pretend this red wine is spiced and get on with it then.

Spiced Apple Cider

Apple cider is the perfect fall drink. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and other warm fall spices to get people in the Thanksgiving spirit. Providing cinnamon sticks for stirring is a classy touch.

Cranberry Fizz

Mix up a pitcher of cranberry fizz by adding sweetened cranberry juice, seltzer water, and the juice of a lime. Adding whole cranberries to the mixture makes a great garnish.

Spiced Wine

If you want to provide alcohol with the snacks, spiced red wine is a great option. It is sippable but rich enough that it will prevent people from over-imbibing.

Harvest Lemonade

Lemonade mixed with ginger and crushed blackberries is a light and refreshing addition to the Thanksgiving table.

Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

If your family eschews snacks and even some of the sprawling spread you set out every year to make room for their favorite sweets then you may want to focus primarily on preparing desserts that are sure to satisfy. These recipes from our Registered Dietitian have been carefully crafted to offer flavors more fantastic than typical desserts while also using healthier ingredients to create a more wholesome dish!

Gluten-Free Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie Recipe {gluten-free}

A dessert that is essential for any Thanksgiving assembly, peacan pie is one part of the pair of traditional Thanksgiving treats. For families that prefer pecans to pumpkin, this confection offers the same great taste while using ingredients that accommodate vegetarian, paleo and gluten-free diets.
Ingredients: Almond flour, coconut oil, honey, eggs, pecan halves, coconut sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract, butter, salt.
Total Time: 1 hour | Yield: 8 servings

No-Bake Cheesecake Bites {gluten-free}

No-Bake Cheesecake Bites Recipe {gluten-free}

For families that prefer pumpkin palates to pecan, this cheesecake offers a simple way to shake things up from the prototypical pumpkin pie. Not only do these mouthwatering morsels offer a potent pumpkin flavor, they also do so with a makeup that is both gluten-free and vegan.
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond flour, cacao powder, vanilla extract, almond milk, raw cashews, maple syrup, canned pumpkin, pumpkin spice.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 16 - 20 squares

No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake Bites {gluten-free, vegan}

No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake Bites Recipe {luten-free, vegan}

For those of you that have had enough of tradition entirely, try tart treats for a means of mixing things up while still satiating the sweet tooth of your guests. This light lemon cheesecake utilizes similar methods as our pumpkin recipe with a twist on the flavor that is worth trying.
Ingredients: Raw almonds, unsweetened shredded coconut, gluten-free rolled oats, flaxseed meal, maple syrup, lemons, coconut cream, macadamia nuts, slivered almonds.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 15 servings

Gluten-Free Almond Cake

Gluten-Free Almond Cake Recipe

If your family is full by the time dessert rolls around, but often goes the extra mile to enjoy their sweet treats in spite of better judgement- opt for something lighter with this airy almond cake. Our recipe is not only gluten-free, but it's also intended to create a moist and succulent cake that your family is sure to love.
Ingredients: Eggs, almond milk, unrefined sugar, almond flour, coconut flour, coconut oil, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, sliced almonds.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients for Thanksgiving Appetizers, Desserts and More

The brightside about preparing meals on the Thanksgiving day is that even the sweet and savory portions of the meal can rely on the same spices for their primary source of seasonal savor.


Abonour, R. (2015). 17 Thanksgiving snacks and starters. Serious Eats. Retrieved from

Food Network (2015). The best Thanksgiving cocktails and drinks. Retrieved from

Fruits and Veggies: More Matters (2016). What's in season? Fall. Retrieved from

Gold, R. (2012). Baked parsnip fries with rosemary. Epicurious. Retrieved from

Harvard Health Publications (2014). Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods. Retrieved from

Rolls, B.J., Hetherington, M., & Burley, V.J. (1988). The specificity of satiety: the influence of foods of different macronutrient content on the development of satiety. Physiology & Behavior, 43(2), 145-153.