During the holidays, our traditional meals can often lack nutritional aspects when we opt for more fats and carbs. Healthy eating goes out the window and we wait for the New Year to get back on track. An easy first step to eating healthy is to include colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal. Instead of putting your health goals on hold, consider adding more color to your Thanksgiving dinner and switching out some of your healthy sides with fruits and veggies!
November is Eat Smart Month so it’s a great time to experiment with healthy recipes. Whether your fruits and vegetables are fresh, frozen, canned, or dried – any addition is a good addition! The American Heart Association recommends 4-5 servings per day each of fruits and vegetables and there are so many fall vegetables that would be great at your Thanksgiving table. During the fall, apples, brussels sprouts, dates, squashes, pears, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are in season! That’s some red, green, orange, and purple you can add to your plate! Swap out the bread rolls with brussels sprouts this year and see if your guests even notice anything is missing!
We don’t want you to give up your favorite meals, but a few swaps can make a big difference! You can even sneak more fruits and vegetables into meals. Try these tips to hide your veggies and make your meals more nutritious:
Grab a grater to shred zucchini, beets, carrots or parsnips to add to all sorts of recipes. Add a vegetable serving to your favorite whole grain muffins and quick breads by mixing shredded zucchini into your batter before baking. You can also sauté shredded carrots, summer squash or butternut squash for about five minutes before adding them to pasta sauce for a quick, veggie-filled meal. Even your pickiest of eaters may not notice!
Replace half the ground meat in recipes like burgers, meatloaf and meatballs with cooked chopped mushrooms. Finely chop your choice of mushrooms then sauté in a little olive oil until soft – about three minutes or so. Once the mushrooms are cool, gently mix them with your lean ground chicken, turkey or beef. Cook thoroughly and follow the recipe as is. Voila! Another veggie-ful meal for the family.
Cooked and pureed orange vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots can be blended, unnoticed, into cheesy dishes we all love like macaroni and cheese, lasagna, or baked enchiladas. You end up using less cheese, which cuts some of the saturated fat and sodium. You can also add the sweeter-tasting veggies to a blender with some low-sodium broth and puree them into a smooth soup that most kiddos (and adults) will love.
For more healthy eating tips, please visit heart.org/healthyliving.