The Thanksgiving table is a central focus for Americans who celebrate this holiday of gratitude with family, friends and loved ones. It is often filled with traditional staples and creative additions alike, presenting an assortment of savory and sweet dishes. For many seniors, particularly those who must observe special dietary needs and restrictions, it’s important to integrate options that both satisfy the palate and support their individual health requirements.
To help you or the senior in your life get the most out of this year’s Thanksgiving feast without compromising nutritional goals, we’re sharing some of the most delectably healthy dishes, including recipes for use among your holiday spread.
Nutritional Considerations for Seniors
Before getting to the good stuff, it’s important to acknowledge why older adults may have different nutritional considerations, even (or especially) at a Thanksgiving celebration. Lots of internal shifts unfold over the course of the aging process, and some of these changes can inhibit a senior’s habits for healthy eating—including areas like digestion, metabolism, thirst, and appetite.
Everything from normal physiological changes to chronic diseases and medication can impact areas such as energy, weight, appetite, and overall health. Therefore, it’s crucial to make healthy eating a priority. And while some allowances can often be made for special celebrations like your annual Thanksgiving get-together, it’s still smart to incorporate nutritional options and moderate dishes that are high in fat, salt, and sugar.
We hope the following recipes help keep your eating plan in check, all while bringing a bit of spice and delight to your Thanksgiving table!
A Lighter Take on Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes
Oven-Roasted Turkey: The bird is usually the centerpiece for any Thanksgiving meal, and it can be prepared in a number of ways. For seniors minding their nutritional health, an oven-roasted or grilled approach is more appropriate than a deep-fried one. Check out this Herb-Roasted Turkey recipe for a moist, flavorful protein that checks off all the right boxes.
Stuffing: What would a Thanksgiving turkey be without its main accompaniment, the stuffing? Consider selecting a lighter recipe that capitalizes on fresh, healthy ingredients. For instance, this Healthy Harvest Stuffing integrates whole wheat Italian bread, shiitake mushrooms, fresh herbs, tart apples, and crunchy walnuts for all the flavor without the heavy fats and carbs.
Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potato pie is another staple of the Thanksgiving menu, but it’s often loaded with fats and sugar. If you or the health-conscious senior in your life enjoys a sweet potato dish, don’t assume you have to skip this side altogether. In fact, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, high in fiber and filling. Try these Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes to transform this superfood into a delicious holiday fixin’.
Fresh Cranberry Sauce: Cranberries are rich in antioxidants, and have been known to support cardiovascular and urinary tract health. To take advantage of these health benefits and minimize excess sugar, forego the canned cranberry sauce for a homemade version—like this Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce recipe made with fresh cranberries.
Brussel Sprouts: Don’t forget those greens at your holiday celebration! Vegetables prepared as close to their natural state as possible, without too many added fats, salt or sugar are typically the most nutritious for seniors. This Roasted Brussel Sprouts recipe has all the makings of a crispy, zingy side with the healthy punch of nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids found in this cruciferous veggie.
Sweet Holiday Desserts on the Healthier Side
Pumpkin Pie: You or the senior in your life can enjoy a Thanksgiving feast and indulge in the sweeter things in life without going overboard. It’s about creativity and moderation. Take, for example, this Healthy Pumpkin Pie recipe, a lightened version of the traditional dessert that utilizes coconut milk for a smooth and creamy treat.
Pecan Pie: Pecans are a good source of calcium, magnesium and potassium, and most of the fat found in these nuts are healthy monounsaturated. So you don’t have to miss out on a pecan dessert altogether. Try using healthier recipes, like this Gluten-Free Pecan Pie, which uses almond and tapioca flour as well as natural sweeteners for a revised version of the sweet, warm and gooey Thanksgiving favorite.
Fruit Tarts & Cookies: Instead of the usual apple pie, loaded with sugar, fats and carbs, there are some tasty takes on a baked fruit dessert that will have you feeling like you got your Thanksgiving fill. These Almond Pear Rose Tarts are easy, healthy and gluten-free, with the added benefit of a bakery-worthy presentation. Or get that traditional apple taste with these soft and chewy Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies.
Frozen Treats: It’s common to serve ice cream with Thanksgiving pies and desserts, so here’s an alternative that cuts down big time on the cream and sugar. These Cocoa Banana Ice Cream Turkeys blend frozen bananas with cocoa powder, peanut butter and almond milk for a smooth, sweet alternative to regular ice cream. You can even dress up these scoops for a festive turkey-themed flair.
These creative spins and mouth-watering recipes can help you or the senior in your life partake in the joy of Thanksgiving foods without abandoning your commitment to nutrition. You don’t have to sacrifice fun and flavor to stay in line with your health plan.
For additional tips on senior health and lifestyle issues, check out our blog. To find out how United Methodist Homes provides a wealth of offerings and opportunities to support the health and well-being of our residents, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now.