ST. LOUIS -- At a moment's notice, Amy Moore, a registered dietitian and instructor in the department of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University, can rattle off seven things that she loves about Thanksgiving.
"It's time to be creative and thankful for the abundant harvest," Moore said. "The holiday is all about locally grown foods long before they became fashionable."
- Turkey: The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving dinners is low fat, high protein and rich in minerals such as iron, zinc and potassium, and B vitamins. Plus, it's relatively inexpensive. Peel off the skin and nab the white meat, which doesn't contain nearly the fat or calories as a leg or thigh. Safety alert: unless you plan to serve up a helping of food poisoning to your dinner guests, thaw your frozen turkey in the refrigerator or under running water, never on the kitchen countertop. And don't allow your cooked turkey to sit out for longer than two hours because you don't want to give bacteria time to grow.
- Sweet potatoes: "From a dietitian's point of view, they're a dream come true because they're packed with vitamin A and beta-carotene, and are naturally sweet. I like to see sweet potatoes instead of mashed on the Thanksgiving buffet," Moore said. She's OK with the traditional marshmallow-topped casserole - it is, after all, the time for a little splurge. However you also can scrub up their jackets, pop them in a 350-degree oven for a half hour (until they can be pierced with a fork), slit them down the middle, squeeze them from both ends and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon.
- Cranberry relish: Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, cranberries are attractive eye candy. Spooned onto turkey, they also add a pop of flavor so you don't have to pour on quite so much gravy.
- Vegetables: "I love the variety of vegetables and the opportunity to branch out from the traditional green bean casserole. I always like to bring something new," Moore said. One year she brought purple cauliflower instead of the usual white to her family's feast. Roasting vegetables is an easy way to bring out their natural sweetness. Combine a variety of pretty colored veggies -- carrots, beets and Brussels sprouts. Spritz on some olive oil and put them in a 350 degree oven uncovered for 20 to 40 minutes. Stir halfway through.
- Pomegranate seeds: Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, potassium, iron and calcium, pomegranates are a super fruit. Sprinkle them in a green salad; add them for a blast of color to sliced pears and apples.
- Desserts: Thanksgiving is a guilt-free zone, so indulge a little. Looking for a way to slip in some heavy duty nutrients? Think pecan, pumpkin or apple pie. Remember moderation is the key so avoid having a slice of each.
- Family fun: "The concept of Thanksgiving is being with family. Go outside and play football, before settling in front of the TV to watch football. Go for a family walk. Step away from the table and enjoy a conversation. It's all about enjoying Thanksgiving, and being stuffed is not enjoyable," Moore said.
Read about Thanksgiving food safety.
Watch Chef Michael Milster prepare a turkey.
Learn about SLU's department of nutrition and dietetics.