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Let’s Be Thankful

Amy Campbell

November 23, 2009

I’m taking a break this week from my spice series since it’s almost Thanksgiving. What usually happens at this time of year is that magazines and Web sites feature articles on how hard it is for people to manage their diabetes, their weight, etc., during the holidays. And while that may be true, reading this information year after year (unless you’ve tuned it out by now) may leave you with a sour feeling — how can you enjoy the holidays when you’re being told to eat this and not that, or eat less of this, or check your blood glucose more often, or go for a walk, or get plenty of rest…all good advice, but I imagine that it wears a little thin after a while.

So, this week, I decided to focus on a few items from the traditional Thanksgiving meal and all the good things that they can bring us. Do you still need to watch portions and count carohydrate? Is it still a good idea to go for a walk after indulging? Well, yes, but you can take some comfort in the fact that you ate some pretty healthful foods and that you did your body good!

Turkey
Chances are, turkey will be featured in some form at your Thanksgiving table. Turkey (actually wild turkey) was introduced to the Pilgrims by the Indians that first Thanksgiving in 1621. Turkeys became so popular thereafter that Ben Franklin pushed to have turkey be the national bird (it lost out to the bald eagle). We can at least be thankful that a fattier protein source wasn’t gracing the table. Here’s what turkey offers:

  • Excellent source of protein
  • Low in total and saturated fat
  • Low in sodium
  • Very good source of selenium, niacin, vitamin B3, phosphorous, and potassium
  • Contains tryptophan, an amino acid thought to promote relaxation and sleep

Four ounces of turkey breast, without the skin, contains 150 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrate, and 34 grams of protein.

Stuffing
Most stuffing recipes aren’t all that healthy. That’s because they’re often made with butter or turkey drippings, eggs and sausage are sometimes added, and the sodium content might be high due to chicken broth. But you can give stuffing some redeeming nutritional qualities by doing the following:

  • Using whole-grain bread crumbs instead of white bread crumbs
  • Using olive oil or canola oil instead of butter
  • Adding some chopped vegetables, such as carrots and celery
  • Using a low-sodium chicken broth

Check out this recipe for “healthified stuffing,” which includes nutrition information, from the Web site eatbetteramerica.com

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables around, so hopefully they’re featured in your Thanksgiving meal. Sweet potatoes come in various colors, but we’re most familiar with the deep orange variety. Here’s what you’ll find in this delicious root vegetable:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Fiber
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Iron

Not only are sweet potatoes good for your heart, eyes, and digestive tract, they can even keep your skin healthy and younger-looking, too, thanks to their beta-carotene content. But watch the toppings; the gooey, sweet marshmallows that people often pile on top obviously aren’t the best choice. This year, why not leave off the carbohydrate-laden topping and try a new spin? I found this recipe on Epicurious.com. Not only does it look easy to make, it seems pretty healthful, too.

By the way, one-half cup of baked sweet potato contains 90 calories, barely any fat, 21 grams of carbohydrate, and 3 grams of fiber. Not too shabby!

Cranberries
Cranberries, which are native to my part of the country, are highly nutritious. Sure, they’re hard and tart, but thanks to their antioxidant content, they can lower LDL (&lquo;bad”) cholesterol, raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, prevent heart disease and cancer, save your eyesight, prevent urinary tract infections and ulcers, and even help fight off food poisoning from pathogens. What more could you ask of a berry? Granted, canned, jellied cranberry sauce (yes, I admit, I like this!) is cranberries doctored up with high-fructose corn syrup. But making your own cranberry sauce is quick, easy, and lower in carbohydrate than the canned variety. Check out this recipe from Cooking Light.

This year, think about the foods on your Thanksgiving table. Maybe there are ways to prepare them more healthfully, or maybe you start a new tradition with something totally different. Whatever you decide, think about what each food has to offer (all foods have something!), be thankful, and have a peaceful and enjoyable holiday!



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