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Make Thanksgiving Healthier

Thanksgiving is often synonymous with bountiful feasts, food comas, and seemingly inevitable weight gain. But you can avoid consuming excess calories by indulging in the healthier foods of this holiday. The following are some of the better Thanksgiving food choices.

Often a seasonal favorite, pomegranates and cranberry relish and sauces offer a great balance of sweet and tangy flavors. The health benefits of pomegranates include inflammation-fighting antioxidants, as well as antibacterial and antiviral properties, which may help you to fend off illness. Pomegranates also provide 15% of your daily value of vitamin C and 3 grams of fiber per half-cup.

Beets are a sweet root vegetable that come in red and yellow, and can be added to main dishes or served as a side. They contain nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, aiding in the delivery of blood and oxygen to working muscles, and plays an important role in many intracellular processes (ex. muscle contraction). Beets also support neurological and heart health, and have even been shown to lower high blood pressure.

Pumpkin Pie
Of all the desserts, you might want to steer toward the pumpkin pie. Half a can of canned pumpkin has 42 calories and fully 4 grams of fiber, and is also a great source of vitamin A and potassium. If you want to save calories but still enjoy that great pumpkin flavor, try incorporating pumpkin into a savory soup or bread in place of heavy creams and oils.

Fresh cranberries offer excellent health benefits. Known for their role in preventing and treating UTIs, and having a preventative effect against dental cavities, cranberries are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals and are a good source of manganese. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer (namely, breast cancer). One serving of cranberries contains 20% of your daily value for fiber and 24% for vitamin C. And it should be noted that it’s better to opt for fresh cranberries since canned cranberries add about 100 more calories and 6 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Usually the star of most Thanksgiving feasts, turkey offers plenty of high-quality protein which helps you feel full and satisfied. If you’re watching your caloric intake, you may want to indulge in the ultra-lean, white meant portions early so that you will feel satisfied sooner. This may potentially fend off the urge to go back for seconds, too.

Green Beans
The classic green bean casserole is made up of canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and French fried onions. However, you should skip all that and opt for fresh or frozen green beans, which are rich in antioxidants and good sources of vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber, and manganese. If you must make the casserole, low-fat milk and whole wheat bread crumbs are recommended for a healthier dish.

Brussels Sprouts
These fiber-rich cruciferous vegetables help lower cholesterol and protect against cancer due to the phytonutrient glucosinolate. They also support the body’s detoxification system and anti-inflammatory response and are rich with antioxidants. Steaming your sprouts brings out the most health benefits.

Sweet Potatoes
Skip the mashed potatoes or anything “gratin” and dig in to sweet potatoes instead. Sweet potatoes have fewer calories and more fiber than potatoes, and are also a great source of beta-carotene. They even provide 400% of our daily requirement for vitamin A. For a healthier dish, try roasting them or replace your traditional mashed potatoes for mashed sweet potatoes.

Healthy Leftovers
Even before Thanksgiving, you may already be thinking about those delicious leftovers. Here are some suggestions to keep those leftover meals healthy:

  • Turkey Sandwich 1: First of all, nix the stuffing layer. Choose a high quality whole wheat or sourdough bread and add white turkey meat, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. If you must, add homemade cranberry sauce rather than the canned version.
  • Turkey Sandwich 2: Top toasted Ezekiel bread with skinless white meat turkey, avocado, tomato, hummus, kale, mustard, and lemon.
  • Leftover cranberries and cranberry sauce can be repurposed into a salsa or cranberry applesauce. Or you can add it to oatmeal, plain Greek yogurt, or whole grain pancakes.
  • Roasted veggies can be added to a vegetable broth and turned into a hearty soup. You can add turkey shavings to the mix as well.

Stick To Thanksgiving Specialties
That is, eat the foods that you typically eat only during Thanksgiving and skip the foods that are more common in your daily diet. For example, you might want to opt for pumpkin pie versus cookies or cupcakes, simply because the latter is more easily accessible on any given day. Bonus tip: Take a stroll around the block after dinner rather than succumbing to a post-meal nap.

What do you do to keep the holidays a bit healthier? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!

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