By: Caitlin Smith ’16, University Health Center, Nutrition Peer Educator
It’s that time of year again; the holiday season is upon us. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful time of year, it’s as if the sky becomes painted more vividly, the air becomes a little crisper, and then there’s the FOOD.
Pumpkin everything for starters, and apple pie, stuffing, cornbread, candied sweet potatoes, and that’s just to name a few of my personal favorites… For each holiday, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas, I have the fondest memories of putting on my best holiday attire and attending our traditional family gatherings. This was one of the only times my large family could all get together catch up, enjoy each other’s company, joke, laugh, love and FEAST. So, each year as October comes and goes I get more and more anxious for the reuniting of my family and favorite holiday foods.
However, this time of year makes some people anxious for other reasons. A lot of people don’t have such a positive correlation with the holidays. All of the food can send people’s minds into overdrive trying to figure out how they can navigate it all while sticking to a healthy nutrition plan.
If people do allow themselves some of their favorite holiday treats, as they should, they feel immense guilt and immediately begin to ponder what they can do to “make up” for it or they will restrict all day to “save their calories”.
Well, I’m here to explain that there is no reason for all of this guilt by introducing the top five thanksgiving foods that you can feel good about eating. These are all foods with an abundance of nutrients that your taste buds and your body will thank you for eating.
Nutrient Packed Thanksgiving Goodies
- Candied sweet potatoes. I come from a family with southern roots so, this is what we call this delicious side dish. But, whether you refer to it as candied sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, or just plain old sweet potatoes – this is one of those dishes you just should not skip this holiday season. My family makes these with marshmallows, butter and brown sugar, and your family may have similar practices but that does not mean this isn’t a food you can feel good about! The benefits of the actual sweet potato far outweigh the less healthy preparation. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. And if you are really adverse to the extra goodness that comes with the added sweets and butter, simply go for the plain sweet potato, it alone can satisfy almost any sweet tooth.
- Turkey. This bird makes a debut at all of my family holidays and since I’m not big on red meat, I wouldn’t have it any other way. With all he has to offer, you shouldn’t be shy of having him on your plate either! Turkey is a lean protein source and contains lots of iron! Go for the dark meat if you’re interested in boosting up your iron a bit.
- Apple pie. There’s no way eating this is going to give you enough health benefits to make you feel good about eating it, right? WRONG! Don’t skip this fruit-filled dessert. With as many apples as most apples pies have, it’s almost like eating fruit for dessert! It’s also often lower in calories than many other more pastry-like desserts. Like it á la mode? Use low-fat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream
- Deviled eggs. This is an appetizer I always look forward to seeing. They are delicious and certainly nutritious. Eggs are the gold standard of protein and they usually only have about one gram of saturated fat, depending on the amount of mayonnaise used. Eggs are more than just a great source of protein; they contain an abundance of other essential vitamins and minerals.
- Green Bean Casserole. This dish has made a few appearances at holiday functions in my family. This little green vegetable is nutritious any way it is prepared. It is packed with vitamins and even has some fiber. If you really don’t like the crunchy fried onions on top of most green bean casseroles, just kick them to the side.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and remember – the point of a holiday is to celebrate, so don’t get so caught up in counting calories or trying to maintain a stringent eating regimen. Give yourself a break and enjoy all that there is to offer.
You can also sign up for a free diet analysis at the health center for more strategies on holiday eating.