Thanksgiving. The magical day of the year where we stuff turkey and mashed potatoes in our mouths while expressing thankfulness for family, friends, and health. We work hard on our health and exercise habits all year to be the best we can be. And we deserve a day of eating delectable foods while surrounded by our loved ones.
Yet, it’s incredibly easy to go overboard on Thanksgiving. We all know we are going to consume a pretty large plate of food this holiday. There’s just no getting around that. The real issue is to focus on quality over quantity. We’ve outlined the wholesome and nutritional benefits of many of the traditional Thanksgiving food components, as well as a few suggestions on how to prepare them for the maximum health benefits.
For most families, turkey is the main placeholder on the Thanksgiving table. Turkey is a lean, white meat packed with protein and virtually no saturated fat. In other words, it’s an incredibly healthy meat option. But be sure to baste you bird with a low-fat, low-salt broth or juice. And remove the skin when eating, as most of the fat is in the turkey skin.
Stuffing & Rolls
Ditch the boxed mix and create your own, homemade version of turkey’s best friend. It won’t even add much time to your to-do list. Switch to whole wheat bread for the benefit of whole grains. Add flavor with aromatic fresh herbs and veggies, like carrots, onions, and celery. Or try wild rice instead of stuffing for a good source of fiber.
The same goes for rolls. Offer whole wheat, or even gluten-free options to suit everyone’s preferences.
Save yourself some work and keep the skins on your potatoes. The skins provide fiber and potassium! And limit yourself to only one scoop of gravy…
Sweet potatoes are a strong source of vitamins C and D, plus iron, magnesium, and potassium. They also help ward against cancer and protect against the effects of aging. In other words, sweet potatoes are a superfood!
Unfortunately, the second you toss in brown sugar and marshmallows, you offset these health benefits. Stick to sweet potato baked “fries” or add baked apples for sweetness without compromising the spud’s natural health effects.
These stringy vegetables are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, plus iron and fiber – all while being low in calories. This year, skip the cream of mushroom soup and try steaming them with olive oil and sliced almonds instead. Or try other nutritious green veggies, like Brussel sprouts, asparagus or broccoli.
Cranberries are little beauties bursting with antioxidants. Ditch the classic canned cranberry sauce and opt for a homemade version. Just be careful – most recipes call for about a cup of sugar!
Try substituting with a naturally-sweetened version instead. This recipe calls for honey, orange zest, and ground cinnamon. To be honest, this sounds much better than canned cranberries – and it only takes five to ten minutes to prepare. Sign us up for bringing this side dish to Grandma’s house!
Reasonable portions and a few creative culinary tips can leave you feeling comfortable, satisfied and thankful as you start the holiday season. That way, you won’t feel bad about scooping that piece of pumpkin pie onto your dessert plate!