Healthy Thanksgiving Deliciousness

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I recently discussed the Mediterranean way of eating with a charming group of ladies. I shared with them that those who fully adopt this style of eating and exercise can decrease up to 2/3 of their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, I chose to talk about this topic with Thanksgiving staring us right in the face.

I wonder how easy it will be to adapt the Mediterranean way of eating into the traditional Thanksgiving meal my family loves and expects. Let’s break down this meal and see if we can make a few healthy changes.

Roast turkey is definitely Mediterranean as long as I replace the butter under the turkey skin with olive oil or none at all. There will be no problem following the Mediterranean recommendation of eating poultry at least twice a week. This way of eating also calls for fish at least three times a week. Meat-and-potato connoisseurs may have trouble with this, but either get beef completely out of your diet or limit it to a four- to seven-ounce serving twice a month.

Mama’s turkey dressing recipe contains homemade biscuits and cornbread plus a handful of herb-seasoned stuffing mix; I may have to break the rules a bit here. The biscuits are made with butter and enriched flour. I don’t think I can maintain the same taste by using whole wheat flour and olive oil. I will use whole-grain cornmeal in the cornbread, making it a little healthier. All your grains should be whole in the Mediterranean way of eating. Examples include oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and popcorn.

There are two types of cranberry sauce at our table: straight out of the can and a homemade version. Except for the flaw of added sugar, this fits into the recommendation of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. In addition, we will have collards, corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pudding, and green beans. My family won’t give up the butter in either potato recipe, but I can use olive oil with homemade chicken broth in the collards and green beans. Corn and white potatoes don’t have the same protective effect on health as dark green, leafy veggies, so they shouldn’t be eaten every day. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of the Mediterranean way of eating.

Our Thanksgiving table usually has pecan pie and German Chocolate cake. We need to rethink sweets as sugar is making us sick. Holiday tips include cutting back the serving size and reducing the sugar in recipes. You can also snack on plain nuts or seeds before the meal.

Would you rather use pans or pills to control your health? Consider the changes you can make today for a healthier life. The Mediterranean way of eating is simple, delicious, and satisfying – start today!

For more information, please contact Janice Fields, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.