This year, why not make Thanksgiving not only delicious but also a health-boosting experience that’s truer to the origins of the holiday? For most of us, our traditional Thanksgiving meal has shifted away from the natural foods enjoyed by the 17th-century celebrants. But it’s not that difficult to get back to preparing delicious food that is fresh from the harvest…and packed with nutrition.
Here’s my advice on how you can get started…
- Make your own cranberry sauce. It is easy, economical and much healthier to make your own cranberry sauce instead of buying the canned, highly sweetened version. All you need is a bag of fresh cranberries, an orange and a little sugar. The recipe is on the package of fresh cranberries found in grocery stores all over America. I suggest using about half the amount of sugar that is called for (or a similarly reduced amount of a sweetener you may prefer, such as stevia, honey, date sugar or even maple syrup, though it may alter the consistency of the sauce). Use an organic orange so you can add the whole fruit, including the peel (chopped), which will soften and add a marmalade-like quality to your cranberry sauce. Preparing cranberries this way preserves more of the antioxidants and heart-healthy nutrients that naturally occur in the fruit.
- Try hummus as an appetizer. Instead of cheese, crackers, salami and dairy-based dips and chips, try hummus (combine mashed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic) and raw veggies. This combo is a great source of healthy fats and protein, with fewer calories than the appetizers we often choose. Raw veggies also contain lots of fiber, which will fill you up a bit, so you won’t eat too much before the turkey arrives. They also help with digestion and elimination of this big holiday meal. If carrots and celery are old hat, try jicama, cauliflower or daikon (white winter) radishes.
- Bake potatoes whole. Instead of mashing potatoes and mixing them with lots of butter and milk, try baking them instead. I like whole baked sweet potatoes—they are a great source of vitamins A, C, B-5 and B-6, potassium, manganese and copper. You can enjoy your baked potatoes plain with the stuffing (instead of white-bread croutons, try whole-wheat croutons, corn bread, chestnuts, mushrooms and celery), turkey and gravy, which will provide the fat we all enjoy—plus, we all need some fat to stay healthy!
- Choose veggies harvested later in autumn. Opt for broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts and thick-skinned squash such as acorn or butternut. If possible, buy these vegetables in late autumn from local growers. These steps help ensure that the veggies haven’t been stored and/or shipped across country. Also: Don’t slather your veggies with butter—use lemon juice, a small amount of olive oil and your favorite fresh herbs instead.
- Serve peppermint or ginger tea at the end of the meal.* It’s natural to overindulge in such scrumptious foods. These teas reduce gas and bloating to tame indigestion naturally.
With these simple approaches, your Thanksgiving will be much healthier—and even more enjoyable!
*People with gastroesophageal reflux disease should avoid peppermint, since it can worsen heartburn and indigestion.