EXCHANGE GLUTTONY FOR GRATITUDE
Harvest season is a beautiful time of year. For many of us, it brings to mind hay rides and corn mazes, warm scarves and crisp leaves, and time for loved ones to gather and celebrate. Thanksgiving Day is often the highlight of the fall season for families, food lovers, and football fans. However, the annual routine of setting aside health goals in exchange for candied marshmallow yams doesn’t have to define your holiday season. With a few twists, you can have a traditional Thanksgiving experience, without the bulging belt line.
For one thing, many customary Thanksgiving foods are nutritious! Cranberries are a colorful and sweet scoop on many a Thanksgiving plate. Health benefits of cranberries include their ability to prevent bad bacteria from attaching to our bodies. This helps prevent urinary tract infections as well as overgrowth of stomach bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which is the common cause of stomach ulcers. Another popular side dish is green bean casserole, one with surprising health benefits! Research comparing the antioxidant capacity of green beans to other vegetables in the pea and bean family found green beans come out on top. Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Other compounds that promote health are phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring plant chemicals. There are thousands of phytonutrients and the best way to obtain them is to eat colorful vegetables and fruit! The more colors on your plate, the more variety of phytonutrients your body receives. If you sit down with a plate of white, brown, and tan foods, consider grabbing a side plate and piling it with green, yellow, orange, and red foods.
Side dishes are great and all, but the king of most Thanksgiving Day plates is the turkey. To gain optimal health benefits from turkey meat, choose organic and pasture-raised. If the bird foraged in pastures with natural vegetation, it is likely that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is healthier than in a non-pasture-raised, grain-fed counterpart. Turkey is a high-protein food. Quality protein foods can help keep post-meal insulin levels within a healthy range.
While many of our favorite holiday foods are healthful and life giving, others are better eaten in moderation. To limit the less-than healthful foods, use these tricks to help navigate the buffet line. Firstly, your body benefits more from protein and healthy fats than it does from starchy, sugary carbohydrates. Vegetables are the best source of carbs and are great for health because they have a low glycemic index, meaning they have minimal affect on your blood sugar. Let vegetables be your main source of carbs. Portion your meal with moderate to limited bread, pasta, rolls, and stuffing to cut down on high-glycemic carbs, which spike your blood sugar. Fill your plate with more protein foods like meat, dairy, eggs, and nuts. On a day when gluttony is glorified, choose instead to load your plate with nourishing, healthful foods, and give gratitude with each delicious mouthful.