Four Quick Health Tips & Two Tasty Recipes for Your Thanksgiving Dinner
Xinjuan J. Baldwin

1. Talk More, Eat Less
Thanksgiving is the great time for family and friends to get together. Every day we are busy with our own stuff, so it’s a great time for you to catch up with your loved ones. Chatting with people at the Thanksgiving dinner table not only helps you get social, but also healthy. When you talk, you slow down with eating, and it gives your brain time to detect your fullness and let you stop eating. When you eat slowly, you’ll get a chance to enjoy great flavors than just stuffing yourself to maximum capacity with all the food.

2. Light Food Goes First
Turkey is a must and stuffing is appealing. However, try to fill yourself up with lighter dishes first, such as salad and veggies. Sweet potatoes have a great mixture of fiber and vitamins, and a pinch (just a pinch and no butter needed) of brown sugar makes it delicious. When you have a good food base in your stomach, you won’t clean up your plate in seconds like a storm. Instead, you can slowly enjoy all the great flavors melting in your mouth.

3. Go for Sweets , YES!
Instead of trying to find reasons to persuade yourself from desserts, I say go for it. BUT, keep portion control in mind, it is the key. A small piece of pie, a scoop of ice cream or a small bowl of chocolate pudding won’t kill you. You probably have been waiting for them for a long time. Have some but limit it to a small portion. Other than that, remember to have some coffee along with your desserts. A study showed that caffeine generates a greater thermic effect, which increases energy expenditure, basal metabolic rate and fat oxidation.1 At the same time, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant and reduces the sleepiness after turkey consumption.

4. Move Around after a Meal
After your great meal, take a 15 to 20-minute walk. Walking after a meal helps you increase your metabolism and burn off any excess calories from the meal. If you don’t like walking by yourself, ask your family and friends, or even take your pets to join you. You are helping them stay healthy too! If you still feel walking is too boring for you, then do something else. Help clean the table, put away stuff, do the dishes or take out trash. There is always something better to do than just sitting down and watching TV.

Along with our Thanksgiving dinner recommendations, we’ve come up with two tasty and easy-to-make side dishes with healthy modifications. They will spice up your Thanksgiving dinner and help you stay healthy at the same time.

Sautéed Green Beans with Onion

6-8 servings

  • 2-2 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Steam green beans until just cooked (about 5 minutes)
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add onions and garlic, sauté until golden brown
  4. Add green beans, sauté for 3-5 minutes until tender
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste

*** Roasted red peppers or mushrooms are also good choices to add.
*** Steaming green beans reserves more nutrients than boiling them in water.
*** Olive oil is a healthier choice than butter.

Earthy Oven Roasted Vegetables

6-8 servings

  • 1 small Pumpkin, cleaned, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 Potatoes, unpeeled and cut into cubes (potatoes need a good wash, scrubbing with a brush is even better!)
  • 2 large Red Onions, peeled and cut into wedges (about 8 wedges per onion)
  • 2 Zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/3 to 1/2-inch-thick rounds

*** Butternut squash, sweet potato, red pepper, carrot and other vegetables are good choices too if you prefer.
*** Colorful vegetables not only look nice on the table, but also contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme, basil and black pepper into a bowl and mix it well (this can be done in advance to save time)
  3. Place the vegetables in a large baking pan
  4. Drizzle the dressing onto the vegetables and toss to coat evenly
  5. Sprinkle a small amount of salt
  6. Roast in oven until vegetables are tender and golden brown, about 30- 40 minutes

1. Westerterp-Plantenga. Green tea catechins, caffeine and body-weight regulation. Physiology & Behavior. 2010; 100 (1): 42–46.

Xinjuan J. Baldwin is the Senior Editor of Educational Fitness Solutions Monthly Nutrition Newsletter and is a graduate of the State University of New York with a B.S. in Nutrition and a minor in Personal Training. During college Xinjuan focused on working with children, older adults, the general populace, and families in need of nutrition and fitness consulting. Currently she is focusing her time on more specific nutrition related issues, such as proper sports nutrition implementation and how to manage weight via better eating habits. She also spends her time concentrating on posture and body alignment analysis and correction implementation within a fitness setting.

Fruits Versus Veggies … And the Winner Is? 

Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE

Parents often struggle with getting their kids to eat vegetables and wonder if fruit is just as good?
Fruits contain many of the same vitamins and minerals as vegetables, but in different proportions. It's ideal for kids to get a mix of both. But if fruit is all your child will stomach, it's certainly a great choice.

The Cons of Shunning Vegetables?
  • Vegetables contain some unique compounds that fight cancer and heart disease, and many of these are not available from fruits.
  • Fruit also tends to be higher in calories than vegetables.

Helpful Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies:
  • Get Colorful: Be sure to continue to offer a wide range of colorful fruits and veggies -kids tastes change and you don't want to miss out on your child adding a new food to his/her diet.
  • Experiment: Try adding a vegetable that you do not typically serve, or offer it in a different form, or shape.
    • Spring rolls with lettuce and carrots (not fried) or lightly steamed edamame, (which kids enjoy popping out of the pods) served with soy sauce, are also kid- friendly choices. Sometimes it's just a matter of texture over taste.
  • Live a Grocery Adventure: Have your child find a new veggie to try at the grocery store. Learn more about the color power of fruits and veggies!
  • Familiarize: Less familiar veggies such as jicama (pronounced Hic-a-ma), celery, or sugar snap peas may spark his/her interest.
  • Twist it Up: A slight tweak in preparation may change your child's mind about a certain vegetable:
    • For example, he/she may not like cooked broccoli, but he/she may like raw broccoli slaw mixed with his/her favorite low-fat ranch dressing.
    • Another possibility is trying a variation on that cruciferous staple. For example, cauliflower and broccolini/baby broccoli are less bitter and kids may be more willing to eat them.
    • Your kids may not like cooked zucchini cut into coins, but they may like shredded, cooked or raw zucchini.
    • Puréed cooked carrots in tomato sauce served with their favorite shaped pasta.
    • Try cooked butternut squash in fruit smoothies, pumpkin pancake dinner and shredded zucchini in whole grain muffins.
Fruit for Dinner?
Consider adding fresh fruit with dinner if your child repeatedly skips veggies:
  • Mandarin oranges, sliced pears, dried cranberries, dried apricots or chopped apples make good additions to salads, rice or stuffing
  • Applesauce is a good side dish, and don't forget other fruity sides such as mango or pineapple salsa
  • Include orange or grapefruit slices, baked apples or baked pears, fried bananas (slice and heat with a teaspoon of canola oil -it's delicious) or frozen fruit pops for an after dinner dessert. Check out Super Crew kid, Baby Tom-Tom's watermelon pops.
The Psychology of Veggie Talk:
  • Kids don't miss a beat, and hearing you talk about what they don't like will likely increase their resistance.
  • Don't bribe or reward kids for eating their vegetables, it can backfire later.
  • "Sneaking" veggies into foods is controversial, but don't be afraid to sneak in veggies. I make a mean turkey meatloaf with all sorts of undetectable vegetables including minced and pre-cooked onions, chives, herbs, carrots, and zucchini.

All of these tips help create an open environment of trying new foods. Always let the choice of whether to try a food rest with your child. With small children, you can even tell them they have to try one bite, but if they don't like it, spit it out. Gently let your child know it can take a few times before they like the taste - so be sure they consider trying it again the next time you're cooking that vegetable or serving that fruit. Think of a food they didn't like before and enjoy now, and use this as an example.

Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and wellness coach with a Masters in Nutrition Education. She is the coordinator for several nutrition courses, including Functional Family Nutrition that provides the latest research on eating attitudes, super foods, food behaviors and earth-friendly eating. She is founder of SuperKids Nutrition Inc where she is "saving the world, one healthy food at a time." Discover how nutrition can help you live your best life through on-line nutrition courses at