Meadville Tribune

Our Health

November 15, 2012

It's Turkey Time!


It seems like we were just talking about barbeques, and here we are smack dab in November. I surveyed some registered dietitians from our area, and across the country, about their favorite Thanksgiving recipes and side dishes. I thought it would be fun to share with you how dietitians manage to create a healthy holiday meal that they enjoy.

One common theme was how appealing sweet dishes are. Of course sweet potatoes may come to your mind, but what about caramelized Brussels sprouts? Gail Nelson, a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer in Portland, Oregon, suggests roasting Brussels sprouts with garlic, olive oil, and salt. Roasting them brings out their natural sugars. "They taste like candy!" she reports.

Another favorite is a Sweet Potato Casserole with a brown sugar and toasted pecan topping. As Sandra Luthringer, dietitian and owner of Super Suppers in Erie says: "You really don't need the extra sugar since they are sweet enough, but a little extra spurge once in a while is just fine in my book!" Betsy Crisafulli, a registered dietitian for Unidine in Connecticut, loves her sweet potato dish too for ease of preparation. "It is straight- up cooked (peeled) sweet potatoes, mashed, thrown in a Pyrex dish, topped with a brown sugar and pecan topping, and baked.  I leave out the stick of butter and go easy on the topping, but still use enough that you get the flavors in each bite. It's like candy, masked as a vegetable dish."

Wendi Connelly, director of nutrition services at Shriner's Hospital in Erie, loves serving her family Homemade Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree. She says this soup is a "unique compliment to traditional fare, and is packed with nutrients (calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and C)". Added bonus: "it is very satisfying, which helps you eat less, yet it's low in calories."

"I'm a fan of green beans with almonds.", says Alexandra Black, at "A lot of the turkey day spread tends to be heavy, but steamed green beans and toasted almonds provide a nice, simple green addition to the table. And it's so easy to make!"  If you'd like to try something a little different, you might try Barbie Cervone's favorite - roasted butternut squash with figs. "The smell warms up the whole house, its sweet, delicious and a healthy addition!"

It looks like dietitians are big fans of beta-carotene (sweet potatoes and squash) and also think that enjoying something delicious is on par with being health-conscious. You don't have to go overboard on Thanksgiving with too many side dishes. The roast turkey is good for you, it's often the fat-laden side dishes that sends calories overboard.You don't have to serve six or more side dishes. Instead, just plan a balanced array of food groups and keep color in mind. Instead of all-white foods (think: turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing), add some orange and green to the table!  A holiday meal is a great time to try a new vegetable or a new way to prepare a tried and true veggie. Of course, save the seconds for the next day. Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings for good health!

 Do you use Twitter? Find me there by following @rustnutrition. My colleagues and I will be posting all sorts of helpful tips, and recipes, to get you through the holiday season. Also be sure to check out for more Thanksgiving recipe ideas and suggestions from dietitians for keeping the holidays tasty and healthy.

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