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November 21, 2017 | 5 minute read

Thanksgiving Meal Made Simpler and Healthier

A couple of years ago I wrote about making a AICR’s Thanksgiving porchetta-style turkey breast, as an alternative to cooking a full turkey. I loved the flavorful spices in this dish and the ease of making a turkey breast instead of an entire turkey; it saved time and it works well for a smaller crowd.

This year I wanted to make a more simplified twist on that same recipe and make a one-pot Thanksgiving turkey that also included vegetables. This roasted vegetable and herbed turkey dish is packed full of flavor, easy to make, and is a healthier version of your traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Turkey breasts can usually be found year-round at the grocery store, but may come frozen or require ordering ahead of time. I called my local grocery store a few days before I planned to make this dish to confirm they had whole turkey breasts and to find out if they were fresh or frozen. If you are buying a frozen turkey breast, make sure to pick it up the day before your meal so you can thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.

I found out my store had them fresh, but due to their popularity they suggested reserving it ahead of time. For this dish, I cooked up a whole turkey breast that had been split into two halves to serve 10. However, you could easily use ½ turkey breast and cut the ingredients in half to make this recipe for 5.

Spreading the herb mixture under the skin of the turkey breast helps it absorb the flavors during cooking, and cooking it with the skin helps prevent the turkey from drying out. Placing the turkey on top of shallots for the 1st half of roasting also helps prevent the turkey from drying out and replaces the need for a roasting rack.

I like using whole baby carrots with the tops trimmed because they look gourmet, but you could use regular whole carrots cut in half length-wise, then halved again cross-wise. If you see them, try using purple or white carrots for added color.

The combination of Brussels sprouts, carrots, and sweet potatoes round out the turkey to make a balanced meal. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins, C, K and folate, and are packed with fiber – making them one of AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer. Carrots also fall into the cancer-fighting category with a hearty dose of vitamin A and other phytochemicals that can act as antioxidants in the body. You can make this recipe with other vegetables (e.g. roasted red potatoes, parsnips, etc.) but I always like to include at least one green, cruciferous vegetable to provide added color and nutrients.

Add broth during the first half of roasting to retain moisture and add extra flavor. It can also be used to make a quick and easy gravy, if desired. If you plan to do this, save the broth when you pour it off half way through cooking, and make a simple gravy at the end while the turkey is resting.

Whenever you cook turkey, it’s good to have an instant-read thermometer to ensure it is fully cooked through, as cooking times can vary quite a bit. Make sure it reads 165F in the thickest part of the turkey breast before removing from the oven.

Allowing the turkey to rest when it’s done cooking makes it easier to carve, and gives you some time to plate up the roasted vegetables, make gravy (if desired), and plate up any additional side dishes.

This meal makes a great a replacement to the more traditional, much heavier Thanksgiving dishes, but is unique enough that it can easily be a crowd-please year-round. In itself it is a complete meal with lean protein from the turkey, a good dose of nutritious vegetables from the Brussels sprouts and carrots, and a healthy complex carbohydrate from the sweet potatoes. However, if you’re looking for additional pairings, a homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and simple green salad are all good additions.

What healthier twists have you made on a Thanksgiving meal?


2 (2½ lb each) bone-in, skin on turkey breasts (1 whole turkey breast split in half)

2 Tbsp olive or canola oil

4 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1½ tsp dried

3 sprigs fresh sage, or 1 tsp dried

5 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried

4 cloves garlic, or 1½ Tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

6 shallots, peeled and halved length-wise

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1” cubes

1½ lbs Brussels sprouts, halved

1 lb whole small carrots, tops removed and sliced in half length-wise


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Add oil, rosemary, sage, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper to a small food processor (or blender). Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Gently pull skin back from turkey-breast halves. Rub ½ of the oil-herb mixture all over turkey breasts, both under the skin and then on top.
  3. Arrange 6 shallot halves each on two separate large, deep baking pans. Set turkey breasts on top of shallots and add ½ cup chicken broth to each pan. Roast for 60 minutes. While the turkey is roasting, toss the sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and carrots with remaining oil-herb mixture in a large bowl.
  4. Remove turkey from oven and transfer turkey and shallots to cutting board. Carefully drain the broth (and save for gravy, if desired). Spread the sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and carrots on baking pans in an even layer. Place turkey and shallots on top of vegetables and roast until turkey registers 165°F on instant-read thermometer and vegetables are golden brown, about 60 to 75 minutes more (if vegetables or skin are starting to burn, lightly tent the turkey in foil).
  5. Transfer turkey to clean cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with roasted vegetables.

Makes 10 servings

Per serving: 380 Calories, 13 g Fat (3.5 g Saturated Fat), 19 g Carbohydrate, 43 g Protein, 5 g Fiber,  390 mg Sodium

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