Top Thanksgiving Foods that are Actually Good for You!
With all the focus on how not to gain weight, and what not to eat over the holidays, the wonderful nutrition in holiday foods often gets overlooked. There really are a cornucopia of healthy foods to choose from on the Thanksgiving table.
1. Pumpkin (& other winter squash): Pumpkin is a remarkably healthy ingredient, providing 3 1/2 times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A and a lot of fiber per half-cup serving. Pureed pumpkin lends itself to healthy cooking. It can, like applesauce and prune puree, replace fat in baked goods without giving them a rubbery texture. The Winter squash group includes pumpkins, acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash. Winter squash, like other richly colored vegetables, provide excellent sources of carotenes. Generally, the richer the color, the richer the concentration. They also offer a very good source of vitamins B1 and C, folic acid, pantothenic acid, fiber, and potassium. Winter squash is also a good source of vitamin B6 and niacin. Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are a healthy snack too. According to the Eat this! Not that! authors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, pumpkin pie is your best choice of the holiday pies. (Check out our healthy pumpkin recipes for cyclists: pumpkin protein smoothie and pumpkin energy bars!)
2. Roast Turkey: Serve up three ounces of skinless turkey breast and you get a whopping 20 grams of protein with practically no fat. All that and only 100 calories. Plus you fill 25 percent of your daily need for niacin and vitamin B6. The differences in calories between the white and dark meat aren’t huge, but dark meat does contain higher concentrations of minerals, including iron. If you are low on iron, then don’t feel guilty enjoying a piece of the drumstick!
3. Sweet Potatoes: Ounce for ounce, they have as much beta-carotene as carrots. A mere four ounces contain 50 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C, as much potassium as a banana and a good amount of fiber. All this adds up to one terrific disease-fighting food! (Just leave off the sugary marshmallows!)
4. Cranberry Relish: There’s a substance in cranberries that helps prevent urinary tract infections by interfering with the ability of bacteria to adhere to cell membranes. Cranberries also contain a potentially cancer-preventing compound called ellagic acid. Make a fresh orange-cranberry relish (see recipe below!) and get added benefit from the vitamin C in oranges.
5. Potatoes: Whether mashed or in latkes, potatoes are good food. They contain loads of vitamin C and potassium, plus fiber, iron, copper and plenty of B vitamins. Boiling potatoes will destroy some of the vitamin C and dissolve some of the rest of it into the cooking water. To help preserve the vitamin C content, use some of the cooking water instead of milk or cream when mashing them.
- 1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
- 1 unpeeled orange, cut into eighths and seeded
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar (according to your taste)
- 1 Tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts)
Place the orange slices in food processor container. Process until mixture is evenly chopped. Transfer to a saucepan, and stir the sugar. Bring the orange mixure to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and ginger and cook until the berries pop, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pecans. Pour into a bowl, then cool, cover and refrigerate. This can be made 4 days in advance. Makes about 3 cups.
*Although you don’t have to add pecans, they have a lot of nutritional health benefits as well!