Nutritionist Marie Spano: Healthy Thanksgiving

Nutritionist Marie Spano: Healthy Thanksgiving
Source: WBRC video

Surprising Health Benefits of Your Favorite Holiday Dishes

Take the guilt out of holiday eating this year while enjoying your favorite dishes. Registered dietitian Marie Spano shares how to have a Thanksgiving spread that combines great taste with good nutrition!

Marie often hears that people are worried about calories and fat grams. It's time to turn that thinking around and be grateful for the abundance of good food, family and friends. Marie will showcase 5 typical holiday foods that have surprising health benefits, even for those watching their waistline.

Stuffing is a staple during Thanksgiving. When made well it’s much more than white bread and chicken broth. Starting with whole grain stuffing mix and adding onions, riced cauliflower, celery, carrots and mushrooms helps layer your stuffing with flavor, eye popping color, mouth craving texture and the health benefits of each vegetable.

Pecan pie. Pecans are the only major tree nut indigenous to America making them a holiday favorite. You can double the nutrition and taste by making a pumpkin pecan pie. Pumpkin is loaded vitamin A and the plant compounds lutein and zeaxanthin which protect your eyes. It’s also a great source of beta cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid that protects your skin, eyes and bone. Pecans are packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber, copper and zinc to help support the whole body including your heart and your immune system.

Cranberries. Cranberries are low in calories and rich in fiber, potassium and contain vitamin C, which makes them a perfect part of a healthy diet. In addition, cranberries contain unique compounds that have proven antibacterial properties that provide total bodyhealth benefits, including heart health and immunity. Yet cranberry sauce is often made with sugar, putting a damper on its health benefits. It is easy to make better for you cranberry sauce that tastes great with 100% orange juice and applesauce.

Potatoes. Potatoes are a nutrient powerhouse, loaded with vitamin C, potassium and fiber. If you use regular white potatoes as well as the deeply colored, carotenoid-rich sweet potatoes, or even opt for something a little more unique like purple potatoes, you will boost the beneficial antioxidants of the dish.

Mulled Cider. Fresh mulled apple cider is made by infusing a variety of spices such as cinnamon, fresh ginger, orange and lemon zest into the beverage. Both the spices and fruit adds antioxidants making this a power-packed beverage. Plus, since this is made from fruit without added sugar, it doesn’t affect blood sugar the same way candy does.

Marie A. Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, is one of the country's leading sports nutritionists. She is the sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves. She combines science with practical experience to help Olympic, professional, and recreational athletes implement customized nutritional plans to maximize athletic performance. Also a nutrition communications expert, Spano consults with leading food, beverage, and supplement companies regarding public relations and communications strategies.

Spano enjoys the challenge of communicating scientific information in an approachable, understandable format to a variety of audiences. She has appeared on CNN as well as NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS affiliates, and authored hundreds of magazine articles, trade publication articles, book chapters, and marketing materials.

A three-sport collegiate athlete, Spano earned her masters in nutrition from the University of Georgia and her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), where she also ran Division I cross-country. Her experiences as a college athlete provides effective perspective to work with athletes of all levels, especially student athletes, by providing a first-hand understanding of how the demands of athletics, psychological aspects of injury, and sleep, recovery, and sound nutrition can impact an athlete’s overall well-being and performance.

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