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Have A Healthier Holiday

With Five Thanksgiving Favorites

There is no denying that Thanksgiving is a time to indulge. The good news, however, is that many of the dishes found on the holiday table have, at their heart, fresh and flavorful ingredients that are recognized for being not only delicious, but healthy, too. Feasting on rich foods is a favorite tradition, yet these five healthy holiday ingredients can be savored in ways that make the most of their nutritional benefits.

Cranberries are fantastic prepared with other fruits for a fresh, flavorful relish; steamed green beans can be served as a healthy alternative to traditional green bean casserole; and potatoes are great savored with olive oil and a garnish of freshly chopped chives. Baked sweet potatoes add color and flavor to the meal—and taste so delicious, you won't even miss the brown sugar or marshmallows so often included in recipes for candied yams. And turkey, the satisfying centerpiece of the feast, is an excellent source of lean protein! With just a few subtle adjustments to these naturally nutritious foods, it's easy to have a Thanksgiving table laden with healthier alternatives full of flavor, and tradition.


Reaching a peak of ripeness—and nutritional value—from October through December, fresh cranberries are a festive holiday favorite, loved for their vibrant scarlet hue, tart taste and fantastic health benefits. Cranberries are believed to help prevent certain kinds of infections, lower cholesterol, and promote oral and gastrointestinal health. Cranberries are a tasty source of antioxidants, which play an important role in one's overall health and wellness.

Because they are so tart, fresh cranberries are best when enjoyed with sweet fruits such as apples, pears, oranges or pineapples. Finely chopped in a food processor with these fruits, or tossed with honey or maple syrup, they make a delicious, refreshing and colorful addition to the feast.

Green Beans

Steamed, simmered or sautéed, fresh green beans are a healthy, tasty side dish that perfectly complements many main courses, from steaks and chicken, to turkey, ham and pork chops.

A source of many nutrients that contribute towards cardiovascular health, including fiber, potassium, folate, magnesium and riboflavin, green beans contain vitamins C and A as well as iron, an essential part of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the cells. Served with a sprinkling of toasted slivered almonds, tossed in heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil, or sautéed with mushrooms, they're a wonderfully flavorful and healthy holiday accompaniment.


A very good source of vitamin C, potatoes also contain vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber and copper, as well as a number of phytonutrients.

Vitamin B6 aids in cell formation, and, as it assists with the breakdown of glycogen, can help assist with the body's ability to perform athletically. Some research also indicates that certain types of potatoes contain flavonoids, which can help protect against certain kinds of cancers, as well as respiratory problems and cardiovascular disease. Free of fat and cholesterol, potatoes are substantial, hearty and satisfying, and great for incorporating some much-needed nutrients into a well-balanced diet.

Sweet Potatoes

In season from late autumn through early winter, sweet potatoes are a highly nutritious root vegetable, and a favorite during the holiday season. Because sweet potatoes contain vitamins A and C, they have the power to help eliminate free radicals. The powerful antioxidants found in sweet potatoes benefit the body in numerous ways. Research indicates that vitamin C and beta-carotene play a role in the prevention of conditions like diabetic heart disease, while their anti-inflammatory nutrients in sweet potatoes can help ease symptoms associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

Baked, or cubed and steamed, sweet potatoes are a beautiful, delicious and nutritious side dish, perfect for a healthy harvest meal.


Turkey is a wonderful source of protein, an essential part of any diet that provides the body the amino acids it needs to manufacture its own proteins. This lean meat has long been a significant dietary staple; it remains popular today because of its great flavor, texture, versatility and health benefits.

A source of selenium (which has been shown to bring about DNA repair and keep the immune system properly functioning) turkey also contains the B vitamin niacin, which is believed to help protect the body from certain cancers. While a traditional staple of the Thanksgiving meal, turkey is also a great choice for dinner any night of the week, its versatility and tastiness making it a terrific ingredient for numerous healthy recipes during the holidays, and all year long.

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Key Terms in This Article
niacin - a member of the B-vitamin family. Niacin, via its... more >
beta carotene - A carotenoid that is stored in the liver, where... more >
flavonoids - a group of compounds with antioxidant properties,... more >
manganese - Apart from its uses in rare overt deficiency... more >
copper - required for normal infant development, red and... more >
iron - a necessary mineral for the proper function of... more >
vitamin A - Helps eye health (including seeing normally in... more >
vitamin C - fights colds and flus by boosting the immune... more >
riboflavin - an essential nutrient in human nutrition and... more >
magnesium - an essential mineral in human nutrition with a... more >
folate - is the naturally occurring form of folic acid... more >
potassium - helps control the body's fluid balance, helps... more >
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