A Happy, Healthier Thanksgiving
A common story about Thanksgiving involved unrestrained feasting, followed by drooping heads and intermittent snoring on the couch.
We usually blame the tryptophan – an amino acid found in turkey – for the post-dinner nap attack. It’s true that tryptophan can have a calming effect, but complete unconsciousness is not a typical reaction. The more likely explanation is that the drowsiness after Thanksgiving dinner is a product of a sugar crash. Turkey is just the innocent bystander. The real culprit is the marshmallow covered sweet potatoes; the super sugar saturated cranberry sauce and the dessert buffet.
There is a better way.
With a few simple tweaks to your traditional recipes, you can make a Thanksgiving dinner that doesn’t leave you feeling zombie-like or deprived. Many Thanksgiving recipes that we use today rely on sugars, simple carbohydrates and processed ingredients for flavor and texture. Replacing those ingredients with wholesome, natural alternatives can be better for your waistline, your mental health, and your overall well being.
As a whole natural food, the turkey has a lot going for it. Roasting is probably the best bet as far as cooking methods go. For more adventuresome chefs, the deep fry option leads to a crispy-skinned yet moist-fleshed bird. Common knowledge tells us that deep frying is hardly a healthy choice, and is indeed probably the least healthy. If deep frying is your turkey plan, you can improve this option by being conscious of what oil you use.
Using any polyunsaturated oil will lead to your bird spending time in a highly oxidized and damaged brew. These kinds of damaged fats are known to cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other inflammatory illnesses. They are best avoided entirely. This means no canola, corn, soy or other vegetable oil for your bird. Oils that hold up to the heat of deep frying are the saturated fats, which include lard, tallow and tropical oils – such as coconut or palm. Coconut oil is available in large quantities and would make a good choice for a deep-fried turkey.
Roasting is more common as a turkey preparation option. There are ways to make this choice healthier as well.
While roasting a turkey in a plastic bag makes cleanup easier, nestling food in plastic at high heat is never a healthy option. The risk of exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors is much too high. Avoiding aluminum pans and foil also reduces exposure to toxins.
Bread-based stuffings offer a traditional taste and texture, but going breadless can add even more flavor – and nutrients. Making a sausage-based stuffing instead with carrots, celery, onion, herbs, and seasonings, and even dried cranberries or cherries creates a side dish packed with flavor. You might not be able to eat as much, but that leaves room for other goodies.
Green Bean Casserole
Green vegetables are a great addition to any meal, but the additional ingredients in a classic casserole somewhat negate their benefits. The creamy soup so often used in the casserole recipe has several undesirable ingredients including vegetable oils, wheat, soy, and MSG. Do a search for recipes that use a homemade cream sauce from milk, coconut milk or creamed cashews, depending on your dietary needs.
Cranberries are tart. Really tart. Accepting them as such will lead to far healthier recipes.
Cranberry sauces usually call for so much sugar that the result is easily mistaken for a dessert. Let them be tart! Making sauce from fresh, whole cranberries is relatively quick. Making it from scratch also allows for the sweetener to be controlled. If you can stand a very tart sauce, try just using fruit juice – such as orange – as a sweetener. Most people will require a bit mellower flavor, and a natural sweetener such as honey can be used.
Pumpkin pie is frequently the grand finale for the Thanksgiving feast. Even this can be made a bit better with a few changes. Using fresh, organic pumpkin is always an option, but canned pumpkin is usually just pumpkin with no additional ingredients. Using fresh pastured eggs and an assortment of spices add to the nutrient profile. Instead of using granulated sugar try maple syrup instead. The crust can be constructed from a mixture of chopped nuts and butter – think hazelnuts and pecans.
Several easy internet searches will provide an enormous selection of Thanksgiving recipe alternatives that are high in nutrients and flavor, and low in cheap, harmful ingredients. This year, plan to make a meal for your family and loved ones that will leave them feeling nourished and vibrant.
Sara Kennedy is a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She lives fitness, nutrition and wellness – and wants to help save lives and change the world’s view on health and nutrition. Learn more about Sara and her plans at thriveak.com To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org