It turns out that a lot of our classic Thanksgiving nutrition advice is full of misinformation, so let’s clear things up so you can have a more enjoyable Thanksgiving – you can have your dark meat and eat it too!
Myth No. 1: Turkey makes you sleepy
For years, people have blamed the Thanksgiving sleepiness on the tryptophan found in turkey, as this amino acid has sedative effects. The truth is, that other foods like cheese and eggs – plus even other meats – contain as much, if not, even more, tryptophan than turkey. So, what does make us so sleepy? Theories abound, but most likely it’s said that the number of carbs (and alcohol) we consume on Thanksgiving is the reason.
If you’re trying to prevent holiday drowsiness, eat smaller portions and watch your alcohol intake.
Myth No. 2: Canned pumpkin is unhealthier than fresh
Jennifer Bruning, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says canned pumpkin has a big advantage – because it’s concentrated, it actually provides more nutrients than fresh pumpkin – it has two to three times more fiber and vitamin A.
Note: Keep in mind that being more concentrated also means it contains more calories. So, be sure you’re getting pure pumpkin in the can, not a pumpkin pie mix, as they may have added sugar, salt, and other unhealthy additives.
Myth No. 3: Multigrain Rolls are healthier than white enriched rolls
Multigrain rolls might not be any better than white enriched rolls. Multigrain rolls may be made with whole grain or whole wheat, but the first word on the ingredient list should be “whole” to provide more fiber.
Better yet: If you are going to eat rolls or bread, try to find a sprouted whole wheat or gluten-free roll…or skip this part of the meal completely.
Myth No 4: Dark turkey meat is unhealthy
While it’s true that white turkey meat without the skin is the healthier option — with fewer calories and saturated fat, but dark meat isn’t necessarily unhealthy. Dark meat contains more of certain nutrients like zinc and iron. So, if you like dark meat better, you’re really not getting much more fat and calories.
Best strategy: Keep portions in check – an easy way to do so is to sit down for 1 meal. A meal is classified as when you sit down with your plate and when you get up…being mindful of having one plateful, as opposed to seconds and thirds, may be easier to do and easier on your waistline.
Myth No. 5: Cooking stuffing in a turkey is safe
If you do decide to stuff your turkey, keep all of the wet ingredients (onions, broth, celery, butter) chilled before preparing. Mix all of the ingredients just before filling the turkey. Fill the turkey loosely and cook it immediately. After the bird is up to 165 degrees, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 °F as well.
Cooking stuffing in the bird increases you (and your family’s) risk for food poisoning. For optimum safety – and even cooking – cook your stuffing outside of the bird.
Myth No. 6: White potatoes have little nutrition, sweet potatoes are healthier
This one is tricky. White potatoes are actually nutritious, low in calories and provide a variety of antioxidants, as well as a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. White potatoes have gotten a bad reputation because of the typically unhealthy way they’re prepared – often fried, loaded with high-fat foods like butter, sour cream, bacon, and cheese.
Sweet potatoes, however, pack a more powerful nutritional punch: they provide a great source of beta-carotene, vitamins A and C. Plus, several recent studies have shown the superior ability of sweet potatoes – and provides about 214% of daily value of Vitamin A! Similar to white potatoes, sweet potatoes also contain many protective antioxidants that are responsible for reducing inflammation and possibly help by improving blood sugar regulation.
Try different varieties of potatoes, and remember to eat the skin – that’s where you’ll find a good portion of the fiber and nutrition.
Myth No. 7: Pop-up plastic thermometers are the best way to determine if a turkey is done
Uh-uh! Pop-up thermometers are quite unreliable. Not only do they make a hole the skin and let juices escape, but they can also get stuck, leaving you with an under-or-overcooked bird, as most are made to pop up at 180°F — at that point, your bird is overdone and dried out.Use a probe thermometer instead.Do your best, enjoy the day and remember, to focus on the others that you’re with for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a chance for families to gather together, to feast and to enjoy being with one another.
But the day can also be a meaningful time to reflect on our blessings and what we are grateful for.
Have a Happy (and Zesty) Turkey Day!
Life With Zest