Thanksgiving is a holiday originally celebrated to give thanks for the previous year's harvest. Food is still the focus of the holiday in modern times, with Thanksgiving turkey, cranberry sauce, loads of sides and huge pieces of pumpkin pie typifying the holiday. Nutritionist Resource member and registered dietitian Maria Dow shares how you can still enjoy your Thanksgiving meal whilst being kind to your waistline.
Butternut squash is rich in many vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A is useful for healthy skin and nails. This vegetable also contains more potassium than a banana, which is beneficial for healthy blood pressure. The bright orange flesh highlights it is high in beta carotene, which is an antioxidant important in eye health and maintaining a healthy heart. This vitamin also helps to reduce our risk of developing cancer. Other sources of beta carotene include apricots, pumpkins, carrots and sweet potatoes, which can all be incorporated into a healthy Thanksgiving dinner.
Roast turkey is an excellent source of high biological value protein. The red turkey meat is higher in iron than the white, which helps to boost our immune systems. Turkey also contains an amino acid called tryptophan which helps to boost our mood.
Instead of typical sausage, sage and onion stuffing, it is worth trying a stuffing made from nutritious roasted turnips, sweet potato, apples, celery and onion. It's a real boost and nutrients that are in season today and available locally.
These bitter little fruits are full of anti-inflammatory anthocyanins. They have also historically been used to help prevent urinary tract infections. The antioxidant vitamins cranberries contain are beneficial to help reduce the risk of heart disease and several types of cancer.
Steaming Brussels sprouts is the best way to preserve their nutrients. Sprouts are a member of the cruciferous family, or more recently termed, the brassicas. Other types of veg in this category also include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower or kale. They are rich in antioxidant vitamins that are beneficial to maintain our heart and bowel health. They also help to reduce our risk of developing some hormone-related type cancers.
New potatoes are very much in season. Baked or boiled with skins are best as they contain significant amounts of vitamin C which is found just under the skin. Just watch the butter! New potatoes are also lower in glycaemic index (GI), which means that blood sugars are sustained better for longer. In this day of gluten intolerance, potatoes are naturally gluten-free. They are great fillers for a Thanksgiving meal.
Typical Thanksgiving desserts tend to be pumpkin-based (pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake). Several types of berries are in season, including blackberries and blackcurrants. These are great stewed with some orange juice and sweet apples or pears that are also in season. Let this cool and serve with high-protein, calcium-rich Greek yoghurt. This is a lovely, light and nutritious ending to what traditionally would be a heavy and energy-dense meal.