Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.
I love waking up to the smell of the sauerkraut that’s already been cooking for hours. (An old Baltimore tradition.) I never miss the parades. And then there’s the mouthwatering Thanksgiving meal itself.
Indulging, and perhaps even overdoing it a bit, is bound to happen. Because let’s face it, it’s not Thanksgiving without seconds and a piece of pie at the end of a meal.
Followed by a nap after dinner, of course.
Thanksgiving foods to say “no thanks” to this year
But just because Thanksgiving is all about the food doesn’t mean that all holiday splurges are equal. In fact, a few Thanksgiving favorites are likely to show up on the table this year that you should pass on.
1. Green bean casserole:
This thanksgiving favorite transforms nutritious green beans into a junk food. First, most folks opt for canned beans when making this popular side dish. And more often than not, that can’s lining contains the hormone disruptor BPA.
Then there’s the canned soup used in the traditional recipe which contains inflammatory vegetable oils, MSG and even more BPA. And finally, you have the palm oil and high fructose corn syrup in the “fried onion” topping.
Try this instead: Skip all the chemical-laced extras and serve up delicious fresh green beans instead. Green beans contain plenty of fiber along with a bunch of vitamins and minerals you need including vitamins A, C, K and B6. As well as calcium, iron, copper, potassium and manganese.
Dress them up a bit with a pat of butter and some slivered almonds if you like. Or try garlic and lemon pepper for a new twist. And if you just can’t do without the casserole go ahead and make it from scratch with fresh ingredients instead.
Another option is to swap the beans for Brussels sprouts with lightly toasted pecans. A new tradition your family is bound to fall in love with.
2. Canned cranberry jelly:
Many of us grew up with a cylinder of cranberry jelly that looked exactly like the can it came out of gracing our Thanksgiving table. It’s been a staple in US homes during the holidays for decades. But it’s time for a new tradition.
This old favorite is swimming in inflammation-triggering sugar. And more often than not, it’s high fructose corn syrup, which experts say causes abnormal increases in body fat and greater weight gain than other refined sugars.
And then there’s the BPA-lined can that the jelly comes in, which can wreak havoc with your hormones.
Try this instead: Don’t skip out on the antioxidant rich cranberries. They’re great for you and, honestly, it just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without them. Just make some homemade cranberry relish instead.
Don’t worry; it’s much easier to do than you think. In fact, when it comes to Thanksgiving foods it turns out this is one of the easiest to make.
Combine whole cranberries, pineapple juice, and unsweetened apple sauce in a food processor and blend. (Adjust the amounts as needed, and add in a dash of pure maple syrup if you like to sweeten things up a bit.) I like to blend a quartered, deseeded, unpeeled orange into mine for some extra sweet-tart zip.
3. Sweet potato casserole:
The ever popular sweet potato casserole is another example of turning a healthy food into a nutrition nightmare. The traditional casserole contains a ton of brown sugar, caramelized nuts (more sugar!) and marshmallow (even MORE sugar!).
In fact calling this a side dish is just silly, it’s a dessert. And on a scale of bad to worse Thanksgiving foods, it’s the worst.
Try this instead: Mash those beautiful sweet potatoes instead. You’ll get the palate pleasing, naturally sweet flavor you crave, without all that added sugar.
Mash them alone or dress them up with a bit of butter and splash of whole milk or cream. Leave the skins on for a heartier and even healthier version. And toss in some lightly roasted pecans for a crunchy twist if you like.
4. Pecan pie:
Although pumpkin pie is the traditional choice, in many homes pecan pie is the favorite. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst Thanksgiving dessert options. Once you drown those healthy pecans in sugar, corn syrup and refined flour any health benefits they would have brought to the table disappear.
A single slice of pecan pie can clock in at over 500 calories. And most of that comes from inflammation promoting refined sugars.
Try this instead: Go the traditional route and reach for the pumpkin pie instead. It’s a much better choice, with far less sugar. And the pumpkin and spices used in pumpkin pie have enough health benefits they aren’t entirely overshadowed by the sugar.
For an even healthier version skip the crust and bake your pie filling in a glass pie pan or individual ramekins. You can also swap out some of the traditional ingredients for coconut sugar, coconut milk and stevia.
Say no thanks to these traditional Thanksgiving foods. Try these guilt-free, but still delicious, options instead.