What's In Your Thanksgiving Dinner?

posted by Darlene DeWitt, MS, RD, LD on Tuesday, November 22, 2022

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many people are busy making plans for holiday meals. 

What are the nutritional benefits of some of your traditional favorites? Are there ways to add a little boost to your holiday meal?

The Traditional Turkey: Turkey is a low calorie, lean protein rich in B-Vitamins, which are beneficial for energy production and the production of red blood cells. Many attribute after-Thanksgiving sleepiness to the turkey. Research is ongoing, but most trials have proven this connection to be all in our heads! While turkey does contain tryptophan, which promotes good sleep and a good mood, this is true for all proteins. High fat, high carbohydrate meals are the more likely culprit leading to post-meal sleepiness. Roasting your turkey with herbs and spices and a light coating of canola oil to crisp the skin will keep this thanksgiving tradition heart healthy.

Potatoes: These meal mainstays can get a bad rap, but they are great sources of potassium and fiber. Sweet potatoes have an added benefit of being high in beta carotene, which is an antioxidant and helps with healthy eyes. Mashing your potatoes with low fat milk and margarine can help keep added saturated fat at bay. Try roasting garlic and adding it to your potatoes when you mash them for an immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory kick. You can also add a little texture to sweet potatoes by topping them with walnuts or pecans, which are high in magnesium and heart healthy fat.

Cranberries: This versatile fruit is high in several types of antioxidants as well as a good source of fiber and Vitamin C. The traditional jellied cranberry sauce can be full of added sugar, but it is actually easy to make cranberry sauce from scratch. By substituting some of the sugar with Splenda, you can reduce the added sugars in this traditional side.

Green Bean Casserole: Green beans contain Vitamin C, B vitamins and fiber. You can pump up your green bean casserole’s nutritional value by adding sliced mushrooms for more Vitamin D. To make it more heart healthy, use Campbell’s Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup. You can kick up other flavors like onion and garlic powder and pepper to mask the lower sodium content.

Pumpkin: This winter squash is another great source of Vitamin A and potassium. You can lighten your pie by using evaporated skim milk and substituting half the sugar with Splenda. How about going crustless? Spray a baking dish with cooking spray, put your filling in it and bake. While many use this fall ingredient to make pie, there are lots of other ways to use it. Go to the website listed as the source for the recipe below for more fun ways to use pumpkin!

Quick and Easy Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Although this soup is rich and creamy there is actually no cream in it. The thick body of the soup comes from the pumpkin puree and evaporated skim milk.

  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly, tops included
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 green chili pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3 cans chicken broth (14-1/2 oz cans) or 6 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree or 1 can (16 oz) solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 cup undiluted, evaporated skim milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste (Canned chicken broth and canned pumpkin may contain added salt. Taste the finished soup before adding salt, as additional salt may not be needed.)
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley
  1. In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté onions, green onions, celery and chili pepper in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent.
  2. Add broth, pumpkin, bay leaf, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove bay leaf. Add evaporated milk and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Do not boil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, if desired.
  4. Transfer hot soup to pumpkin tureen. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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About The Author

Darlene DeWitt, MS, RD, LD

Darlene DeWitt is one of Spencer Hospital’s Registered Dietitians. Darlene currently provides outpatient services in the areas of Diabetes management, heart disease, weight loss, GI issues and other various health concerns.  She received her Master of Science degree in nutrition from C ... read more