Rather than try to convince you to give up all of your favorite dishes this Thanksgiving, (honestly, who would listen?) I’m here to tell you that your Thanksgiving dinner can actually be good for you. Most of the reason people tend to gain weight around the holidays has more to do with eating outrageous portion sizes, rather than the food itself. As long as you exercise a little restraint and maybe don’t go back for those third and fourth helpings, most of the food you will eat this Thanksgiving actually has significant nutritional value and health benefits.
Turkey – Turkey is one of the most nutritious kinds of lean meat you can eat, with even less fat and calories than chicken. If you stick with the white meat and forget the skin, a 3-ounce serving packs 25g of protein, only 3g of fat and less than 1g of saturated fat. Turkey is also an excellent source of the amino acid Arginine, an essential building block for proteins, which also plays a role in cell division, wound healing, immune function, and hormone function.
Cranberry Sauce – Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants that help fight cell damage and improve cardiovascular function, and are one of the highest ranked foods on the ORAC Antioxidant Scale. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, Dietary Fiber, and the essential mineral Manganese. If you’re making your sauce from scratch, consider replacing the sugar with some nutrient rich honey.
Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of A and C Vitamins, Beta Carotine, Potassium, and Fiber. Research is showing that sweet potatoes may have cancer fighting properties, and can stabilize blood sugar levels for diabetics. Maybe take it easy on the brown sugar, butter and marshmallows.
Mashed Potatoes – Potatoes have gotten a bad rap as the unhealthy black sheep of the vegetable family. The truth is, the unhealthy aspects of potatoes tend to be the way they’re prepared, in greasy french fries and chips, and baked potatoes loaded with sour cream or butter. Potatoes on their own are actually a very healthy, low calorie, high fiber food with properties that fight cardiovascular disease and cancer. They are also a great source of Vitamin C, B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. To make your mash a little healthier, try using chicken broth instead of butter, and skim milk instead of cream.
Pumpkin Pie – Pumpkin is a low fat, low calorie food that is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Zinc and Potassium. Most of the unhealthy aspects of pumpkin pie come from the heavy whipped cream and the buttery crust. Believe it or not, you can actually make whipped cream using skim milk with a powerful enough blender, and substituting a flour crust for crushed pecans adds significant nutritional benefits and tastes even better.
Be Thankful – During this time, let’s not forget about the actual act of “thanks-giving.” Studies have shown that gratitude has incredible positive effects on health and well-being. Research is showing that gratitude is associated with reduced blood pressure, stress, depression, and lower risk of development of eating disorders, phobias, and addictions. Furthermore, gratitude is associated with improved mood, sense of well-being, interpersonal relationships, physical health, weight loss, cardiovascular health, immune function, and longevity.