Think of it as a great opportunity to sneak in nutrients along with the decadence. “Thanksgiving is about traditions, so don’t think it’s appropriate to turn it into a big diet fest,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, coauthor of The Carb-Lover's Diet. “But it’s also about seasonal food, and many seasonal foods are very healthy and don’t need a lot of dressing up.”Fresh Cranberry Sauce vs Canned Cranberry Sauce
Winner: Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Here's why. Cranberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C plus they have infection fighting properties which help ward off urinary track infections, ulcers, and gum disease. Canned Cranberry sauce offers some health benefits, but it's usually made with high fructose corn syrup so you are getting more sugar than cranberry. With homemade cranberry sauce you control the sugar, and it's richer in vitamin C. Frances Largeman-Roth, coauthor of the Carb-Lover's Diet, recommends keeping the dish simple by boiling cranberries on the stove with a small amount of orange juice or sugar. You can also try adding in antioxidant-rich seasonings like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and citrus zest.
Bread-crumb Stuffing or Corn Bread Stuffing
Winner: Corn Bread Stuffing
Some people forget that whole cornmeal is a whole grain and all whole grains no matter which type are linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Plus whole grains have more fiber which helps control blood sugar and insulin levels. Just make sure that the cornmeal is nondegerminated. This means the germ part of the grain, where a lot of nutrients are (ie Wheat Germ), is still attached.
Squash or Turnips
Turnips are slightly lower in calories, but they really aren't a high source of any one nutrient. Squash and turnips are both naturally fat-free. However, the pigments that give winter squash (ie Butternut and Acorn Squash) their characteristic bright color are associated with antioxidants that have been shown to protect vision and boost the immune system. Winter Squash also contains betacarotene which not only helps support the immune cell function, but it also helps form the mucous linings of your nasal passages which makes a stronger barrier making it harder for any germs you breathe in to breach it and make you sick.
Mashed Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes
Winner: It's a Tie
Sweet Potatoes have the same betacarotene that you will find in squash, but white potatoes are a good source of potassium and also are a richer source of "resistant starch" which is a carbohydrate that is not digested so it acts more like a fiber in your body which helps you feel fuller faster. Here's the catch, depending on the preparation both sweet potatoes and white potatoes can be either healthy choices or calorie-bombs. Try recipes that call for minimal fat and/or sugar and leave the skins on for extra fiber.
Turkey or Ham
Both are pretty lean meats, but turkey is much lower in sodium which causes you to retain more water which puts pressure on your heart and raises your blood pressure. Since the holidays tend to be stressful for a lot of people, you don't want to put any unneccessary stress on your heart by having too much sodium. Try to stay away from the trendy turkey cooking methods like deep frying or brining because they add unnecessary amounts of fat and salt.
Pumpkin Pie or Pecan Pie
Winner: Pumpkin Pie
Pecans are heart-healthy, a good source of fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamin E. Yet the typical pecan pie is made with a lot of sugar because of the corn syrup most recipes call for. All that sugar raises your blood sugar levels which makes it more likely you will store calories from the pie as fat and your stomach will empty faster and lead to a energy crash. Pumpkin Pie, however, is made with pumpkin puree which also contains beta-carotene and fiber. If you make it yourself, you can also lower the calories by switching from condensed milk to low-fat milk; this will also add a bit of protein to help you feel fuller longer and keep your blood sugar levels from spiking.