If you love food, chances are you're a big fan of Thanksgiving as well. With its copious seasonal dishes (aka stuffing AND bread rolls), crowd-pleasing culinary methods (the more butter, the better) and emphasis on leaving with a fully belly (going for seconds is greatly encouraged!), it might seem that health has no place in this holiday so famous for its traditional feast. Yet, even cooks bent on following customs may be surprised at how much of an enhancement a few healthy tweaks can create – both in flavor and salubrious benefits. Here are some new simple ways to make this year's spread a little more healthful, or in other words, a little something extra to be thankful for.
Shift the Sugar: When it comes to Thanksgiving, sugar…well…sugar happens. But there's no need to reach for the white stuff. Instead, you can make a 1:1 swap of Coconut Palm Sugar in place of cane sugar, which instantly slashes the glycemic index in half (and is especially good in pies, I might add!). You can also use other natural sweeteners like maple syrup and molasses to add flavor and trace minerals.
Spoon in the Superfoods: There may be no easier way to amp up the nutrition of your fancy feast than adding superfoods to your dishes. While we have plenty of recipes on our website to inspire you, the truth is that you can actually just adapt recipes you currently use and fold in extra nutrition. Making yams? Sprinkle Chia Seeds on top. Have a great vegetable side dish? Fold in some fresh pomegranate seeds and Hemp Seeds. Even things like cranberry sauce can be enhanced with a spoonful of Acai Powder or a Daily Superfood Boost to sneak in an array of extra antioxidants.
Add a New Vegetable: Not everything on the Thanksgiving buffet has to be traditional. Instead of looking to take away something from your spread, why not add something hyper-healthy instead? Introduce a new, additional vegetable side – it doesn't need to be complex, just something along the lines of some roasted cauliflower or steamed broccoli with sesame seeds. Give guests the opportunity to fill an inch or two of their plates with something healthy instead of something unhealthy – it's a small effort that genuinely makes a big difference.
Better the Broth: While you may be tempted to use broth from the box (or worse, from the cube) in dishes like rice or stuffing, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make your own stock. It’s an excellent make-ahead recipe, and you can use extra bits and bobs of vegetables leftover from other dishes – like celery hearts, onion slices and carrots, for example – to create a savory base. Add these along with a few auxiliary spices like peppercorns and bay leaves in a heavy-bottomed pot, then fill the pot with a large volume of water. Simmer the mixture down for about an hour or until richly flavored, strain and adjust seasonings as desired. The advantage of making your own broth is more than just a cost savings: your homemade version will have a higher amount of nutrients and offer a richer flavor than anything from the store.
Swap the Butter: Sure, most people love butter, and even the suggestion of going butter-free for Thanksgiving may create a feeling of minor panic. But with butter being a massive source of artery-clogging saturated fat, and with a third of the world's population being sensitive to dairy, why not switch over to something that tastes very similar, but actually has some health benefits? This amazing ingredient exists and it's called coconut oil. Coconut oil's saturated fats are plant-based and do not have a negative impact on cholesterol or heart health like animal-derived saturated fats. Plus, a large majority of coconut oil's fats are composed of MCT's – otherwise known as medium chain triglycerides – which are easily digested by the body and act like a form of sustainable energy for your whole system. You can use coconut oil just like you would use butter in virtually any kind of recipe – it's delicious in mashed potatoes, stuffing and cooked vegetables.
Go Screen-Free: While powering down your Smartphone won't make you a better cook, it will make your holiday more memorable and satisfying. We spend an exorbitant amount of time looking at portable technology – much to the detriment of our physical relationships. This holiday, make a commitment to take advantage of the group of family or friends that have gathered together to spend time with one another by staying fully in the present. Social media, news and email will all be there tomorrow. But for now, be thankful for those around you and the opportunity to break bread together. Nothing is more important – and more healthy – than this kind of truly tangible connection.