Choose your plate at Thanksgiving and enjoy

Published 6:00 pm Saturday, November 12, 2011

Our lives revolve around food, especially during the holiday season.

Thanksgiving is near and full of wonderful memories surrounding those delicious recipes.

But is there anything to feel bad or guilty about?  No.  There are many reasons to continue to enjoy those traditional foods without the guilt.

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We can be grateful for what these delicious foods provide for our bodies:

• Skinless white turkey meat is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins, which help convert food to energy and promote healthy skin and hair.

• Sweet potatoes are an outstanding source of vitamin A, which promotes healthy skin and healthy immune systems.

• Potatoes are loaded with vitamin C and fiber (if you leave the skin on when you mash them).

• Green beans are a good source of vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting.

• Corn provides a specific phytochemical that is essential to eye health.

• Pumpkin eating is linked to lower risk of certain cancers and improved joint health.

• Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, ranking in the top ten foods. They may even help boost your HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

• Pecans are one of the higher fiber-containing nuts.

I am sure many of these foods will be on your table in one form or another.  Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for our health and our families, but continue that thankful attitude all year through the balance food brings.

It’s not about what you do on one day that matters as much as what you do on a daily basis over the course of your weeks, months and years that makes the most impact on your health.

With the new “Choose MyPlate,” here is how you can incorporate simple recommendations into your Thanksgiving meal for a healthy impact:

• Vegetables: Fill half of your plate with vegetables like a fresh spinach salad, green beans, or fresh-cut vegetables as appetizers.  Use holiday colors of vegetables to make them look delectable.

• Fruits: Incorporate fruit into your desserts – not hard when we all think of the standard pie offerings.

Try mini versions of traditional pies to downsize portions.

• Whole Grains: When making your stuffing, use whole wheat bread or brown rice.  Quinoa (another whole grain) makes a great addition to your stuffing or casseroles.

• Protein: Turkey breast without the skin is a very lean and healthy choice.

• Dairy: Use plain non-fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream-based dips.  The difference?  Fewer calories, no fat, more protein and a good source of calcium.

Cranberry, cherry and walnut marmalade

Serves 16 (1/4 cup each).

Active time: 10 minutes | Total: 2 hours (including cooling time)

Fresh cranberries get crunch from walnuts and an infusion of sweetness from dried cherries in this take on a classic marmalade. Leftovers are great on a turkey sandwich.

All you need

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup port or other sweet red wine

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup Hy-Vee dried tart cherries

1 (12 ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries

2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

All you do

1. Combine sugar, water, port (or wine), cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium nonreactive saucepan (see Note); bring to a boil. Add cherries and cook for 1 minute. Stir in cranberries; return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until about half the cranberries pop, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. Stir in walnuts and orange zest. Let cool completely. (The marmalade will thicken as it cools.) Serve at room temperature or chilled.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Note: A nonreactive pan – stainless steel, enamel-coated or glass – is necessary when cooking acidic foods, such as tomato or lemon, to prevent the food from reacting with the pan. Reactive pans, such as aluminum and cast-iron, can impart an off color and/or off flavor in acidic foods.

Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.

Nutrition facts per serving: 105 calories; 3g fat (0g sat, 1g mono); 0mg cholesterol; 17g carbohydrate; 10g added sugars; 2g protein; 2g fiber; 2mg sodium; 53mg potassium.