Today is a continuation of the Healthy You article discussing six of the standard thanksgiving meal items, their key nutrients and some ways we might be able to make is a little bit healthier! Today, in part 2, we will talk about the last three traditional components of the Thanksgiving meal: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes/ mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie! SeeHERE if you missed PART 1!
Green Beans- These seasonal veggies are full of fiber, potassium, vitamin A and K . Despite their nutritional goodness; however, it seems like many people make the traditional green bean casserole solely for the fried onion crispies on top or the creaminess from the canned soup poured into it. Often times the dish isn’t much of a hit at all, so families skip making it all together. Well, here are some reasons to include green beans back into your menu as well as some alternatives to it.
First, despite the creaminess and crunchiness of“classic recipes,” they really aren’t necessary. You already have gravy, bread and sweet potatoes…do the green beans have to have all of those components too? While life isn’t all about calories, I am pretty sure these are calories and processed carbohydrates are ones you don’t need. Steaming beans is a healthier option but if done poorly, renders them overcooked, limp and boring. It creates yet another reason to exclude these from the menu.
But beans don’t have to be ousted from the festivities so quickly. There are ways to make green beans crispy and satisfying without the added junk. Just try roasting them in the oven. With minimal effort your end up with buttery, crispiness without all the “unnecessaries.” Here is the basic recipe:
Roasted Green Beans
Wash them, snip off the tip of each end and then cut them in half (or thirds if they are really long). Coat them with a high heat oil such as avocado oil (if roasting at 400F-425F) or olive oil/ melted butter (if roasting at 350F). Sprinkle with salt and dill (if desired) and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Depending on the quantity of beans
and oven temp it can take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. It is worth it though! You know they are done when they look mildly crispy and a little wrinkled. Just make sure to carefully plan out your cooking schedule if you plan to use the oven as there may be other things cooking! Roasted green beans taste best fresh so cook your other items that require an oven ahead of time if possible.
If you simply aren’t a green bean fan, try another green veggie dish that includes such as a festive harvest salad, cabbage slaw or other roasted veggies.
Sweet Potatoes/Yams/Mashed potatoes—Everyone has a preference for one or other of these! In some families, deciding on which to take to the festive gathering is akin to the Beaver vs the Ducks contention!
If you are making mashed potatoes, you don’t necessarily have to alter what you do. Taking into consideration a guests’ non-dairy needs might be helpful but if not, butter, sour cream or even cream cheese really do make wonderful additions to this dish. After all, it is Thanksgiving! Just moderate your portion (~ 1/4 to ½ cup) and you will be fine. For the carb conscious folks, you can try decreasing the amount of starch by adding in some cooked, pureed cauliflower. This provides fewer carbs, more fiber and key nutrients that support your liver (and after all the eating and drinking people do liver support is rather helpful!)
Yams and sweet potatoes are terms used interchangeably but in actuality are two different vegetables. Even grocery stores mis-label them sometimes. Yams are orange-brown on the outside and have bright orange flesh when cooked. They are typically found in standard grocery stores year round. Their carbohydrate/starch content is less than the cousin they are commonly mistaken for—sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are light tan/dusty-white on the outside and sport yellow-ish flesh when cooked. Both are sweet inside and really can be interchangeable in a recipe. Both are excellent sources vitamin A , although sweet potatoes a little higher.
Do your waistline, blood sugar and mood a big favor this year and skip the traditional sweet potato casserole calling for marshmallows and added sugar. Adding cinnamon to these already sweet veggies actually accentuates their sweetness so try that first.
If you feel you need more sweetness then add 100% pure maple syrup rather than white or brown sugar. Make these mashed or create a new twist by roasting them in the oven with oil and some salt! This is sure to be a winner for the sweet potato fry lovers in your family!
Pumpkin Pie- As mentioned in October's article for the Lebanon Local, pumpkin as its benefits (find the archives to this article HERE.) However, not everyone is a fan of pumpkin pie, so opt for other fruit pies like apple or peach. You can cut the crust entirely by making cobblers with an oatmeal or almond flour topping. If you make your own crust, try recipes that use butter instead of shortening (hydrogenated oils) See recipesHEREand HERE.
ONE MORE SIDE NOTE: It is a bit of a tender topic but worth noting--the reality of food allergies and intolerances. If you know a guest with these issues will be coming, coordinate with them and see what modifications can be made. While you might not be able to modify every item on the menu, find the items that you can reasonably change. You may discover a new favorite yourself!
Have any healthy alternatives you make during Thanksgiving? I'd love to hear about it (and I am sure other Readers would too!). Post in the comments below or on my Facebook page ("Dietitian Cathryn")