Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a carb-loaded, overeating frenzy. You can make satisfying, anti-aging food choices for this holiday that will leave you feeling thankful for indulging. Take turkey, for example. I cook at least four turkeys each Thanksgiving because I usually have about 30 people over for dinner. Turkey contains tryptophan, which produces niacin, giving us energy. Turkey also contains the selenium, a detoxifying antioxidant. You don’t have to drown your turkey in fatty gravy. It can be deliciously sauced using healthier ingredients. I like to marinate my turkeys in a mixture of red wine, soy sauce, and lemon juice before roasting. By the time the turkey is done roasting, the marinade has become a rich sauce.
Resveratrol is present in another classic Thanksgiving ingredient: cranberries. Every year I make Cranberry Bread Pudding. I add walnuts to my bread pudding because they are high in antioxidants like Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E—both of which reduce the risk of heart disease. Instead of butter, I use a butter substitute, Smart Balance® 50/50 Butter Blend, so that this dessert stays heart-healthy.
Wild rice is another holiday staple that is really good for us. It’s a whole grain that provides the FoodTrient fiber for great digestion and Omega-3s, which also is good for our skin. It can be cooked with plenty of herbs and tossed with lightly sautéed bell peppers for a colorful side dish.
You can also add some healthy holiday vegetables like red cabbage and leeks.
The trick is to load your table with delicious healthy options while minimizing exposure to foods—such as like mashed potatoes, white rolls, or creamy gravies. Mashed sweet potatoes are a better choice than mashed white potatoes because the orange tubers contain carotenoids, a FoodTrient that supports the immune system. Whole-grain rolls (as opposed to white ones) will provide fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium.
Pumpkin is another healthy Thanksgiving tradition. Be sure to use evaporated milk in your pumpkin pies instead of cream and a sugar substitute like Xylotol. In the crust, you can substitute Smart Balance® 50/50 Butter Blend for the shortening. That way, you will reap all the benefits of pumpkin’s carotenoids and fiber without taking in too much fat or sugar. The same rules apply to apple pies. Just remember to leave the skins on the apples so that you will get some quercitin, an anti-inflammatory that can reduce allergy symptoms and keep arteries from becoming inflamed. I make a beautiful Pear and Apple Tart with plenty of cinnamon, an antioxidant-rich holiday spice that makes me feel good about eating dessert.
PEAR APPLE TART
6 Tbs. butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup sugar, combined with 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 apples (Braeburn, Granny Smith, Gala, or Fuji), peeled, cored, and cut in half
2 pears (Bosc), peeled, cored, and cut in half
1/2 lemon, seeds removed
1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped pecans
1 9-in. whole-wheat pie crust
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a cold 8-inch cast-iron skillet, lay 1/2 of the butter pieces, evenly spaced. Sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar mixture over the pan. Lay the fruit, cut side up, over the butter and sugar, covering the entire pan. Pack the fruit tightly to avoid shrinking during cooking.
3. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over the fruit. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of the sugar mixture over the fruit. Dot with the remaining butter.
4. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook the fruit mixture until the butter melts and the sugar caramelizes, about 20 minutes. If hot spots develop, rotate the pan but do not stir the fruit.
5. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle the pecans over the fruit.
6. Top with the pie crust, folding edges into the pan so no crust is hanging over. Bake at 425 degrees until the pastry is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
7. Cool the pie until the caramel thickens without sticking to the pan, about 10 minutes. Turn out onto a plate before cutting and serving.