Thanksgiving is rolling around the corner, but not everybody is looking to loosen their belt buckle for just one meal. Even though we often overstuff ourselves, there are actually quite a few healthy foods served on Thanksgiving. If kept in a reasonable proportion, some of the foods have significant nutritional value.
A 1/2 cup of light turkey meat only has 100 calories, very low saturated fat and hardly any sodium. There are zero sugars and a lot of protein. The dark turkey meat is a little higher in calories and has four times as much saturated fat as the light meat, but it is still very good for you compared to the other things placed on the table.
“Turkey is actually really good for you,” Erin Lichter, junior in dietetics, said. “As long as you do not fry it or add all of the carbohydrates from the stuffing to it, than turkey is actually probably the best and most nutritious part of the entire feast.”
Sweet potato casserole is the highest in carbohydrates. However, if the sweet potato is made without all of the sugars, butter and marshmallows, it is another healthy item of the Thanksgiving spread. One sweet potato only has 180 calories, is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and it has very little sodium. It is a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin B6 and potassium. Sweet potatoes raise blood levels of vitamin A by 35 percent and have important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
“I know my grandma loves to make sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cinnamon and butter, but eating sweet potatoes without all of these extra ingredients is definitely much better for you,” Hayley Parker, sophomore in dietetics, said. “I usually try to stay away from foods high in starch, as well as watch my portions. I would definitely choose a sweet potato over a regular potato or mashed potatoes just to get some good nutritional value out of my food choices.”
Green bean casserole has some nutritional value because of the vegetables, but all of the extra ingredients tend to make it a side that should probably be passed for calorie crunchers. The casserole packs 9 grams of fat into a 2/3 cup serving. It also contains 529 milligrams of sodium per serving.
“Follow a simple recipe,” Brian Lindshield, assistant professor in human nutrition, said. “Some of the more elaborate [green bean casserole] recipes include butter and cheese. The simplest recipes only contains condensed cream of mushroom soup, green beans, milk, and French fried onions.”
Corn is another dish often served at Thanksgiving. If it is left without all of the cream, butter or cheeses, it actually offers good nutritional value. A cup of corn has just over 165 calories and a significant amount of water. It also offers a moderate amount of fiber, which can help keep you full and suppress your appetite. This could be considered essential when there is the large Thanksgiving spread sitting in front of you.
Salad is always a good bet as a healthy meal. It is a great side to have on the table. However, salad is only good for you if you cut back on the dressing and add-in extra toppings. Putting carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables will add variety in flavor and health benefits. However, limit the amount of caramelized nuts and skip the croutons. A good way to make a salad even healthier is to dip your fork into the salad dressing and then get the lettuce and other vegetables instead of spreading salad dressing over the entire top of the salad and then mixing it up. This little trick can save up to 100 calories.
Pumpkin pie is the one food item that calorie crunchers typically treat themselves to on Thanksgiving. However, the tasty treat packs 323 calories and 310 milligrams of sodium into one piece. Some pumpkin items do have nutritional value, but this is one dessert that will not come with many nutritional rewards.
“I would just recommend not overeating,” Lindshield said. “So if you know you want dessert, make sure you are mindful of that when choosing what you eat and how much you eat during the meal.”
Thanksgiving is just one meal, and overindulging on one meal will not be the worst for your nutritional health. But these are just a few of the items that can help to watch your intake during your annual feast and ensure you are getting some nutrients out of the holiday.