With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s a time when those of us interested in healthy eating face a true test of will. While some food at the Thanksgiving table is nutritious, a lot of it is plain old-fashioned junk, and best to be avoided.
Here’s our rundown of the food to eat this Thanksgiving, and what you’ll want to keep off your plate.
Avoid: Sweet Potato Casserole
While the sweet potato is a celebrated health food, the same is not true of sweet potato casserole.
For those of you who don’t know, sweet potato casserole is mashed sweet potato mixed with butter and sugar and topped with more sugar, pecans, and marshmallows. It’s a prime example of how you can transform a healthy food into something that isn’t good for your waistline.
Eat: Roasted Sweet Potatoes
The best way to prep your sweet potatoes is to roast them. The roasting process preserves all of the nutrients and doesn’t add anything that could be detrimental to your physique, like sugar and butter.
While stuffing is one of the most distinctive elements in the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, it’s also one of the biggest culprits for holiday weight gain.
The main problem with stuffing is the sheer number of calories it contains. The fattiest stuffings can easily top out at more than 500 calories per serving - nearly the same amount as the average meal.
Eat: Pumpkin Pie
Traditional pumpkin pie might sound decadent, but of all the Thanksgiving desserts, it’s one of the friendliest to your macros.
The reason for this is twofold. First, pumpkin pie contains the natural sugars of the pumpkin, meaning that you don’t have to add sweetness in the form of sugar. Second, pumpkin pie includes plenty of natural fiber, slowing digestion, and providing healthy morsels for your gut bacteria to munch on later. Add to that the fact that it comes loaded with nutrients like beta-carotene, and you’ve got a winner on your hands (or on your fork I should say).
Like it or not, ham is processed meat, and because of this, it comes with all the usual warnings.
Ham, for instance, is extremely high in salt, making it a bad choice for people at risk of high blood pressure. It’s also loaded with saturated fats and various chemicals from the curing process. Plus, it’s not even traditional. Turkey is the meat of choice for Thanksgiving, not pork.
Eat: Brussel Sprouts
Brussel sprouts are a member of the same family of vegetables as broccoli. As you might expect, they confer similar benefits. Brussel sprouts have practically no fat and are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The good news is that brussel sprouts have become a popular Thanksgiving side dish over recent years. Make sure you use them to fill up instead of some of the other less-than-healthy foods we’ve mentioned on this list.
Avoid: Sugary Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a difficult one. Cranberries themselves are, like most berries, are extraordinarily good for you. But most cranberry sauces are a long way from the whole food ideal. Read the label before diving in; if sugar is the first ingredient, you're best off avoiding them.