Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season, a time known for a seemingly endless assortment of foods full of calories and short on nutrition. The average American eats a Thanksgiving meal that contains nearly 5,000 calories and around 250 grams of fat. Delicious, satisfying food does not have to mean eating a fatty meal that leaves you in a food coma.
Integrating healthy dishes into your Thanksgiving menu will leave you alert and able to fully enjoy the company of your family and friends, while getting a healthy dose of essential nutrients. Start this holiday season off right by trying one or more of the following healthy dishes that are brimming with vitamins and minerals and low in fat, but do not sacrifice flavor.
1. Fruit and Nut Mixed Green Salad
Salads are not a traditional part of a Thanksgiving spread, but a fresh green salad tossed with fruits and nuts can be a delicious start to a good meal.
Cranberries, pears, pomegranate seeds and walnuts added to a bed of mixed greens provides a low fat, iron rich dish packed with vitamin C and heart healthy proteins.
The fruits add a sweet and seasonally appropriate addition to the mild flavor of the greens. This dish also happens to be packed with fiber, which is great for warding off Thanksgiving fatigue. Beginning your meal with a fiber rich dish slows down the digestion process and prevents a blood sugar spike that causes the sluggishness typically associated with Thanksgiving overindulgence.
2. Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are all too often presented on the Thanksgiving table loaded with sugar and topped off with browned marshmallows.
This turns a delicious and healthy tuber into a sugary, calorie dense dessert that should be avoided.
Mashed sweet potatoes offer your Thanksgiving guests a healthier way to enjoy this bright orange root. Research suggests that the type of starch found in sweet potatoes fills you up faster without the disadvantages of other starchy foods.
To get the ultimate health benefits from your mashed sweet potatoes, skip the butter and milk and make them creamy with Greek yogurt. Add salt, pepper and rosemary for a savory blend of seasonings. Mashed sweet potatoes prepared this way are nearly fat free and rich in iron and vitamin B6.
3. Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Just because you are trying to serve a healthy meal does not mean that you have to cut out hearty flavorful dishes. Brussel sprouts have an unfair reputation of being an unpalatable vegetable.
If properly prepared, sprouts can hold their own as a delicious addition to any table. Roast your sprouts to bring out the best flavor. Cut off the tough ends and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes for a vegetable side that is crispy and caramelized on the outside and rich and buttery on the inside. Brussel sprouts have sometimes been called the world’s healthiest food. They are loaded with vitamin c, folic acid, vitamin B and essential omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Steamed Mussels
Many people cannot imagine a Thanksgiving meal that does not include turkey. It is generally thought of as the most traditional of Thanksgiving foods.
While it is true that turkey has appeared on American plates every Thanksgiving for centuries, turkey was actually not a menu item at the first Thanksgiving.
Turkey is not the worst type of meat to consume, but it does contain around 300 calories per four ounce serving. A much healthier option, and one that definitely appeared at the first Thanksgiving, are mussels. These salty clam-like sea creatures are low in fat and high in vitamin B-12 and manganese. You would have to eat one pound of mussels to ingest the same amount of calories in a single serving of turkey.
5. Honey Baked Pears
Rich, overly sweet foods are one of the main culprits of holiday weight gain. Cutting dairy and sugar filled desserts from your Thanksgiving menu will instantly boost the nutritional value of your meal.
Baked pears provide a decadent alternative that will leave your sweet tooth satisfied. Simply cut a pear in half and remove the seeds. Drizzle with honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and bake in a 400-degree oven for half an hour.
The result is a soft, slightly tart treat with a flowery sweet honey glaze and the slight spiciness provided by the cinnamon. This dessert has no refined sugar and provides a healthy dose of antioxidants that have been associated with a decreased risk of cancer and type two diabetes.