Thanksgiving is fast approaching. If you are like most American families, you are scurrying about this month, gathering ingredients for time-tested, memorable family meals. But the Thanksgiving menu can be tricky when planning for family members who have specific dietary needs. What are the health needs in your family? An uncle who is managing his weight? A cousin who is a vegan? A son who avoids refined sugars? Loved ones with health concerns such as food allergies or gluten sensitivity? Harnessing the wisdom of healthful eating can satisfy everyone at the table. “Healthful eating is an acquired skill” says Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
“Most people have the knowledge, but they are disorganized about their eating, and it is easy to get out of the habit of taking care of oneself.” Healthful eating does not mean meals can’t be flavorful — it’s about paying attention to ingredients, to how food is prepared, and to experimentation. “Discovering new recipes is the key,” says Tallmadge, “familiar dishes can be prepared in delicious and satisfying ways without the added calories or fat.” Start small. It could be as simple as adding one new dish to the menu. How about Asian turkey meatballs with lime sesame dipping sauce — low in calories but high in taste — or experimenting with new spices or herbs? Root vegetables, are another easy way to bring in fresh flavors. Or how about trying a new cooking technique, such as roasting acorn squash with brown sugar? Or making gluten-free pumpkin pie? “Maximize vegetables and fruits,” says Tallmadge, noting, “When you make healthy dishes, you will have healthy leftovers for days.”
Most importantly, Thanksgiving is a season of taking stock emotionally of what satisfies us beyond food, to be thankful for health gains, insights, or victories we may have acquired this year. Giving back generates a cycle of thankfulness, so consider starting a new tradition in your community — enjoying your meal, and donating one as well. Here are links to U.S. food charities that accept food and monetary donations during the holiday season and throughout the year.
Food Bank of New York City
Food Research and Action Center
Meals on Wheels
No Kid Hungry
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