Your Guide to a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

Try these healthy foods for your Thanksgiving dinnerWhen I think of meals from the ghosts of Thanksgiving’s past, I remember the following scenario.

Aunts, uncles, cousins, and immediate family members all piled up at the kitchen table. There might be a spread of appetizers—cheese and crackers, a pickle assortment, and a few vegetables and a dip.

The meal would include a turkey or ham (full of antibiotics and hormones), a homemade stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and possibly cranberry sauce, with pumpkin pie for dessert. Some years, there’s a vegetable side, such as carrots or corn.

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This is a typical mouth-watering North American Thanksgiving dinner. If the meal is good for you, then what’s with the need to pile your plate again with seconds, and even thirds, while still awaiting your pumpkin pie topped with vanilla ice cream? What’s missing from my lavish Thanksgiving dinner?

Well, simply, it’s a meal full of carbohydrates, while lacking plant-based nutrients. It’s missing healthy foods! The Thanksgiving dinner meal is a prime example of the typical North American diet: heavily containing meat, poultry, fish, cheese, frying oils, salad dressings, condiments, and snack foods.

Eating a well-balanced meal, with less sugar and fat and more healthy foods, will give you more energy at the end of your Thanksgiving dinner feast. By eating healthy foods, you’ll be able to enjoy your dinner guests, instead of being out of breath from overindulging in your meal.

Here are a few healthy foods to replace your conventional Thanksgiving favorites on your table.

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Try Mashed Sweet Potatoes Instead of Regular Mashed Potatoes

The conventional mashed potatoes you would find with your Thanksgiving meal usually include butter and milk or cream, where several mashed sweet potato recipes contain less milk, or use almond milk. Add cinnamon with your sweet potato dish to make it become a sweet festive option.

Although potatoes do have health benefits when eaten on its own, there are healthier alternatives for this starchy vegetable. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, and are higher in vitamin C and manganese than your typical potato.

Try Quinoa Stuffing Instead of Traditional Bread-Cube Stuffing

Replace your traditional high-carb bread-cube stuffing with something new. Quinoa is always a great option for your vegetarian or vegan family members, as a quality source of protein, iron, fiber, and essential fats. You will get more calcium from the quinoa in this dish than from your traditional stuffing.

Your quinoa stuffing could include one cup of quinoa to two cups of vegetable broth or water, a half-cup of sliced mushrooms, a yellow onion, a half-cup of vegetables or pecans, and your choice of spices. If you want a starchy texture that is gluten-free for the quinoa dish, add buckwheat bread cubes to do the trick. Also, add a few cranberries to be a little more festive.

Try Hormone- and Antibiotic-free Turkey Instead of Butterball Turkey

Two-thirds of turkey usually contains unsaturated fat, which is better overall for you—however, when it comes to your turkey, you want to know what you’re gobbling up.

Make sure you purchase a free-range turkey from your health food store or directly from a local farmer, where your bird is free of antibiotics and hormones. You will feel better knowing your bird has had a better quality life. Try spicing your free-range option with a few extra herbs as well.

Try Baked Apples and Figs Instead of Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin in general is a good source of vitamins and minerals; however, enjoying a lighter dessert will help your body digest the big Thanksgiving dinner you just indulged in. Pumpkin pie is high in saturated fat, so have a smaller slice, or make a whole food alternative for your guests instead.

The combination of apples, walnuts, dried figs, cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut sugar, dried cranberries, ground chia seeds, maple syrup, coconut oil, and water, make for a healthy holiday treat. Apples have several health benefits including reducing cholesterol and your risk of cancer, while making you smile with healthier and whiter teeth. You can even try this great baked apples and fig recipe from the Thrive Diet.

Just because you want to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate healthy foods into the meal. These healthy alternatives are sure to be a Thanksgiving hit!

Sources:
“Baked Apples with Figs,” Thrive Forward web site; http://thriveforward.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/18-Fabulous-Fiber-Make-Baked-Apples-with-Figs.pdf.
“Sweet Potatoes: What’s New and Beneficial about Sweet Potatoes,” The Worlds Healthiest Foods web site; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64.
Hackett, J., “Vegetarian Quinoa Stuffing Recipe,” About.com: Vegetarian Food web site; http://vegetarian.about.com/od/specialoccasionrecipe1/r/quinoastuff.htm.
“15 health benefits of eating apples,” Best Health web site; http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/nutrition/15-health-benefits-of-eating-apples.