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. Tryptophan also builds the hormone serotonin, which helps ensure healthy neurotransmitters in our brain. Turkey also contains the FoodTrient 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 marinade 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. Red wine contains the FoodTrient resveratrol, which is good for the heart and arteries. Since my sauce has a red wine component, my turkey can be served with a glass of red wine, upping the resveratrol ante.
Resveratrol is present in another classic Thanksgiving ingredient: cranberries. I make Cranberry Compote every year and use it on top of my Cranberry Bread Pudding . Both recipes are on the website and in my cookbook FoodTrients: Age-defying Recipes for a Sustainable Body. I add walnuts to my bread pudding because they are high in antioxidants like Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E—both FoodTrients and 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. Since I prefer to serve food buffet-style at my parties, I lean toward dishes that are colorful and vary in texture. Buffets also provide a way to sneak more vegetables into my guests’ diets. They will usually choose a little bit of everything I offer, so if I set out more vegetables than carbohydrates, such as mashed potatoes or stuffing, they will invariably eat more healthy items.
Healthy holiday vegetables include red cabbage and leeks. I make a gorgeous Lentil Salad with leeks—whose FoodTrient sulfur compounds are both cancer preventing and detoxifying—and shreds of purple cabbage that are full of the FoodTrient anthocyanins. These antioxidants (found in red and purple vegetables and fruits) inhibit the growth of cancer cells and improve capillary function, which benefits my brain. I also make a colorful Fig Salad—published in my cookbook—with balsamic vinegar because figs have not only anthocyanins but also the FoodTrients fiber and potassium, as well as calcium, to promote bone growth, regulate blood pressure, and help with proper nerve signaling. A fig and cheese plate is also a good way to get figs onto the holiday table.
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—that aren’t dense with FoodTrients. 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. Wine or vinegar-based sauces have the benefits of fermentation without the drawbacks of the animal fats in milk-based gravies.
Pumpkin is another healthy Thanksgiving tradition. (See my blog on Pumpkins and Other Squash.) Be sure to use evaporated milk instead of cream and a sugar substitute like Whey Low Gold. 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, a FoodTrient anti-inflammatory that can reduce allergy symptoms and keep arteries from becoming inflamed. I make a beautiful Pear and Apple Tart—published in my cookbook—with plenty of cinnamon, an antioxidant-rich holiday spice that makes me feel good about eating dessert.