Food

NUTRITION: Superfoods give a boost to Thanksgiving feast

Food Worlds Fare Spring Pilau

This March 7, 2016 photo shows spring vegetable pilau with fennel and asparagus in Concord, N.H.  (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch)

By LeeAnn Weintraub, Special to Digital First Media

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, you may already be busy planning your holiday menu. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the must-have traditional foods like turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

While the typical Thanksgiving feast can be unhealthy and overindulgent, perpetuating the myth of inducing sleep, it need not be.

Consider the upcoming holiday an opportunity to be try out some delicious and nutritious seasonal superfoods worthy of showcasing on your Thanksgiving table.

Truthfully, holiday meals should not be dreaded for their potential to break the calorie bank. In fact, many common holiday recipe ingredients like pumpkin, turkey and cranberries are not just palate-pleasing but also are nutritional powerhouses — offering a wide array of health benefits.

The key is preparing them without using loads of fat and sodium and keeping portion sizes reasonable.

Here are some unique holiday-inspired superfoods that are in season and easy to find to incorporate into your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

FREEKEH

Food Whole Grains Freekeh

This July 20, 2015 photo shows whole grain freekeh in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Move aside, quinoa. Freekeh, which is wheat harvested while still green, is the “newest” ancient grain.

It has more fiber and protein than other grains and is a unique source of lutein, a nutrient that is important for eye health. Plus, its high fiber content is beneficial for healthy digestion.

Add freekeh to a roasted butternut squash and kale salad with dried cranberries for its hearty texture and nutty flavor or include it in your traditional stuffing for a nutritional boost.

POMEGRANATE

Pomegranate is a good source of fiber, potassium and polyphenol antioxidants. These antioxidants give pomegranate its bright ruby red color.

The seeds or arils are both sweet and tart, adding a pop of flavor and color to your menu.

Try sprinkling pomegranate arils onto a wild rice side dish, use them as a garnish for green beans or throw them into an autumn fruit salad. Try mixing pomegranate juice with sparkling water and a splash of fresh lime juice for a light and refreshing holiday “mocktail” with no added sugar.

RUTABAGA

A root vegetable that is in the cruciferous vegetable family, rutabaga can be used similarly to potatoes, but with fewer calories and carbohydrates. Plus, they are a fantastic source of vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals.

Rutabaga can be added to mashed potatoes to help lighten up the calories, while maintaining the starchy texture expected from potatoes. They also may be used in casseroles or prepared with other root vegetables like carrots, beets and turnips.

GINGER

Ginger is an aromatic root that gives a delicious spicy flavor to sweet and savory dishes. The bioactive compound in ginger, gingerol, has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Plus, this spice can help with digestion, nausea and immune support. Freshly grated ginger can be added to vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce or even a baked dessert with fruit and nuts.

FENNEL

All parts of fennel — the bulb, seeds and leaves — are edible and boast a unique combination of phytonutrients, vitamins and fiber, making it beneficial for a healthy heart and immune system.

Fennel has a slightly sweet, licorice-like flavor and its crunchy and striated texture is reminiscent of celery or onion. Therefore, sliced fennel adds a fresh and crisp element to a stuffing or risotto. Raw shaved fennel can be added to a vegetable salad, or serve grilled chunks of the bulb alongside roasted turkey.

By highlighting certain nutrient-dense, healthful and flavorful foods in a way that prioritizes quality over quantity, your friends and family will be well on their way to feeling energized from a well-balanced, tasty and memorable Thanksgiving spread.

LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. She can be reached at RD@halfacup.com.

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