If you love food, chances are high that you're a big fan of Thanksgiving. With its copious seasonal dishes (hello, stuffing and bread rolls!), crowd-pleasing culinary methods (the more butter, the better), and emphasis on leaving with a full 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 five simple ways to make this year's spread a little more healthful, or in other words, a little something extra to be thankful for.
1. 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 there are plenty of specific superfood recipes to choose from, you can actually adapt the classic recipes you already make and just fold in some 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 sides like cranberry sauce can be enhanced with a spoonful of acai powder or Superfood+ Berry Blend to sneak in an array of extra antioxidants.
2. 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 have to be complex, just something along the lines of some roasted cauliflower or a fresh kale salad. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 MCTs—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.
5. 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 healthy) than this kind of truly tangible connection.