Up The Nutrition While Keeping Tradition: Turkey Dinner Prep Ideas

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner can be healthier for those with diabetes, and everyone else, simply by being picky about the quality of ingredients used, and audacious enough to introduce a new custom or two.

Here are a few tips for upgrading the nutritional value of Thanksgiving dinner, without downgrading the taste:

  • Use a high-quality bread to make the stuffing, such as sprouted bread with low sugar, high protein, and fiber content. For those willing to break with tradition, a roasted potato or sweet potato dish using standard stuffing herbs (e.g., parsley, Rosemary, sage, thyme) makes a delicious stuffing stand-in.
  • Commercial cranberry sauces and many traditional sauce recipes are loaded with sugar. Look for prepared sauces made with natural ingredients and compare their labels, or Google “no or low-sugar cranberry sauce recipes” and give one a try. If you stick with your own favorite recipe, be mindful of how much sugar it calls for. Maybe a little less wouldn’t be noticed, or consider substituting an herbal sweetener, such as stevia, for some of the sugar.
  • Not many people will give up dessert on Thanksgiving, but sweet treats can be made with low-glycemic sweeteners such as stevia extract or powder, or a monk fruit sweetener called Lakanto (link below).
  • A cooking oil’s “smoke point” is the temperature at which it begins to burn and smoke. Once past its smoke point, an oil’s beneficial nutrients degrade, and health-harming free radicals are generated. So, when cooking on high heat, oils with high smoke points are best. Two excellent high-heat oils are coconut oil, and ghee. Olive oil and butter are good for medium to low heat cooking.
  • Several standard cooking oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, and too much omega-6 contributes to the inflammation associated with chronic health problems, including type 2 diabetes. Consider limiting, or avoiding the use of vegetable oils (e.g., canola, safflower, corn).
  • Think about purchasing an organic, or free-range turkey to reduce exposure to antibiotics and pesticides. This also supports humane animal treatment, and lets food producers know we want healthier options.
  • Except for a green bean casserole, Thanksgiving dinners tend to lack the color and nutrition non-starch veggies provide. A bowl of steamed broccoli lightly brushed with herbed butter looks festive next to a pale bowl of mashed potatoes. Adding a leafy green salad, maybe laced with raspberries, creates a refreshing complement to all the heavy comfort foods on the table.

If you like the thought of placing a beautiful green salad with raspberries next to your turkey, here’s a recipe to try.

Green Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

You will need:

    Salad:
  • 4 cups mixed baby field greens
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (or frozen & thawed)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup raspberries, pureed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients.
  2. In a medium salad bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss.

(1 cup serving: 72 calories, 6g carb, 5g fat (1g saturated), 1g protein, 3g fiber, 122mg sodium.)

Sources: Amy Krasner/Chopra ; Diabetes/ADA; Lakanto sweetener

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