Thanksgiving, a holiday focused on food, is obviously a Spoon favorite, but we constantly ask ourselves: what is the price of that full stomach at the end of the day? Am I doing myself any favors?
In all honesty, probably not. The typical Thanksgiving dinner is about 4,000 calories. Your best option is to go into the big day with discerning eyes and the knowledge that there is something to be gained other than an extra inch on your waistline. The traditional meal actually has several components that are healthful, and as long as you don’t feast in this fashion every single night, it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy your holiday favorites.
Turkey, always the main event, is a lean protein with no saturated fat and is full of the antioxidant selenium. Just one serving can provide half of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of folic acid and 32 grams of protein — perfect for fueling up for the family football game after dinner. Leave the skins on your mashed potatoes to utilize the fiber and potassium they have to offer. Five ounces of the dish has 27 milligrams of vitamin C (45% of the RDA) and if all else fails, remind yourself over and over: it’s a vegetable, it’s a vegetable…
Cranberries are packed with antioxidants that are great for your digestive system. One-eighth of the canned version only has 86 calories and 0.1 grams of fat, and if you go homemade, you’ll cut sugar and take advantage of the infection-fighting benefits the fruit has to offer. Sweet potatoes have 330% of the RDA of vitamin A, which is significant enough to persuade me to put two types of potato on my plate. And since we’re all convinced that having even a hint of green in our meal is our calorie-saving grace, you’ll be happy to discover that green beans are full of beta-carotene (which promotes healthy vision, skin and immune system) and lots of B vitamins. Add these to your plate (casserole counts, in my book) to relieve any Thanksgiving guilt.
When it comes to dessert, the classic pumpkin pie has some surprising health benefits, with 4.2 grams of fiber and 288 milligrams of potassium. A five-ounce glass of wine contains the antioxidant reservatrol, which reduces bad cholesterol and can prevent blood clots. Make sure to limit yourself to one glass so you’re not consuming excess liquid calories and becoming the subject of an embarrassing family story for next year.
Approach Thanksgiving with a mind of moderation: don’t deny yourself favorites that only come around in the holiday season, but don’t set the bar at passing out at the table into your plate (not surprisngly, this is my older brother’s goal every year).
This new Thanksgiving mindset, combined with the knowledge that you’re feeding your body nutrients it loves, will help you focus on being thankful for the things that mean the most to you, which includes, for me at least, family, health, Jon Hamm, double shot espresso and red velvet cake.
Sources: mayoclinic.com and shape.com