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6 Guilt-Free Choices for Thanksgiving

By Joe Wilkes

It's that time of year when it's not just the turkey that's getting stuffed. The Thanksgiving table is full of irresistible treats and sweets, but before you commit yourself to an afternoon of gluttony followed by the traditional unbuttoning of the pants in front of the TV, you might consider that there are a lot of options that are actually good for you. And if you're the one planning the menu, you can include even more choices so you can enjoy Thanksgiving without turning into a Macy's parade float.


  1. Turkey. You can't beat lean turkey breast. With 8 grams of protein and only 44 calories and 1 gram of fat per ounce, this is one of the healthiest things you can load up on. Even the dark meat only adds an extra gram of fat and 9 more calories per ounce. But skip the skin, which adds extra calories and fat, and go light on the gravy. Try the salad-dressing technique—dip the tines of your fork in the gravy before you spear your meat to get more flavor with less fat. Also, if you're cooking, baste the bird with broth, not butter, to keep the fat and calories low.
  2. CranberriesCranberries. These tart little berries are bursting with nutrition, including high levels of vitamin C and several polyphenol antioxidants. Cranberries are good for inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in the bladder and urethra. It's also believed that cranberries contain a chemical that helps stop tooth decay, but this could be moot if the cranberries are prepared with sugar. Instead of going overboard with the sugar, try cooking cranberries in orange juice, or a little port wine, to bring out their flavor without oversweetening them.
  3. Yams. These tasty tubers (not to be confused with sweet potatoes) are great sources of vitamin B6, which can reduce the risk of heart disease, and potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure. And because yams contain complex carbohydrates and fiber, they won't spike your blood sugar. Candying the yams, a popular Thanksgiving tradition, will largely negate any blood sugar benefits, however. Try having them with a little cinnamon instead. They're generally sweet enough on their own, but if your guests insist on candying them, maybe serve them with a little maple syrup on the side, so at least the sugar rush is optional.
  4. Sweet PotatoSweet Potatoes. Like their relative the yam, sweet potatoes have lots of nutrients that regular potatoes don't have, including beta-carotene and vitamin C. The high levels of carotenoids in sweet potatoes also help regulate blood sugar, which will help you avoid the post-Thanksgiving "coma" that afflicts so many overindulgers after the big holiday meal. Although, once again, you can easily counteract the nutritional benefits by melting marshmallows on top of the sweet spuds. But at least marshmallows can be easily scraped off, as opposed to the poor candied yam, which would have to be scrubbed and soaked to get it back to its natural nutritious state.
  5. Salad. Load up on salad! And by salad, we mean lettuce and vegetables, not a cream-based Waldorf salad or mayonnaise-laden potato or macaroni salad. This is a good contribution you can make if you're a guest at someone else's Thanksgiving dinner. Offer to bring a salad, with dressing on the side, and you'll at least be guaranteed that there will be one healthy dish on the table.
  6. Pumpkin PiePumpkin pie. When you're looking at the dessert selection, keep in mind that a slice of pumpkin pie has as much beta-carotene as an entire carrot. Take that, apple pie! It's also high in vitamin C. Unfortunately, it can oftentimes also be high in fat and sugar. But if you're making the pie, you can substitute skim milk for cream or sweetened condensed milk. Some chefs even add silken tofu to thicken the pie filling and provide the extra health benefits of soy.

If you're lucky (or unlucky) enough to be hosting the main event, you can try some other things to "health up" the meal. Think about offering a separate salad course and/or a non-cream-based soup course. This can prolong the meal and the conversation (which can be good or bad, depending on your family) and allow you to fill up on healthy stuff before the main-course shoveling begins. Also, try scheduling the meal so it isn't eaten in front of the TV during the big football game. Then you can pay attention both to your guests and to what you're putting in your mouth. If you're at the mercy of some other Thanksgiving host, hope for a cornucopia of vegetables you can choose from, or offer to bring something healthy and delicious yourself. By making healthy choices, you'll really have something to be thankful for, instead of just a couple of extra pounds.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Tuesday, November 30th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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10 Foods to Boost Your Health

By Amy Ludwig

You hear all too often these days about foods that are bad for you. You're not supposed to eat this. You're not supposed to eat that. And the taboos go on. Well, here's a list of 10 foods you can happily enjoy, knowing that they're more than just a pretty taste.

Spoons of Spices

These healthy edibles have long been considered to support specific systems in the body, and even to help it heal. While some of these associations originated in traditional medicine, contemporary scientific studies continue to prove what your great-grandma "just knew."

  1. Blueberries. They're good even without muffins. These tiny spheres are a powerhouse of antioxidants, with among the highest levels of any fruit. Anthocynanin, the compound that makes blueberries blue, may also be the main source of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Blueberries have been associated with lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes, slowing the aging process, improving motor skills, and supporting urinary and vision health.

    Serving suggestions: Sprinkle on your morning oatmeal, or blend with lemon juice, honey, and olive oil for a fresh vinaigrette dressing.
  2. BroccoliBroccoli. Though it wasn't President Bush, Sr.'s favorite veggie, broccoli deserves a nutritional medal of honor. It's rich in vitamins A, B6, K, folic acid, and minerals such as calcium and potassium. Moreover, it packs potent cancer-fighting compounds that help detoxify carcinogens in the body, and may help prevent healthy cells from morphing into cancerous ones. If you like broccoli, meet its cruciferous cousins—cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens—which provide similar benefits.

    Serving suggestions: Cut into bite-size pieces, steam, and enjoy with a splash of soy sauce or sesame oil. Stir-fry with lean protein for a healthy dinner, or by itself for use in a salad.
  3. Salmon. High in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, yet low in calories and saturated fat, salmon is worth swimming upstream for. In addition to the great cardiovascular support salmon offers, research has shown it may have a role in diabetes and Alzheimer's prevention, as well as impressive anti-inflammatory and cancer prevention properties. Choose wild salmon instead of farmed, to avoid contaminants such as PCBs. Soon you may also have the option of GMO. OMG!

    Serving suggestions: Brush filets with a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and ginger, then grill or broil.
  4. BeetsBeets. Bring on the borscht! Beets are a good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and C; minerals; fiber; and the amino acid betaine, which has significant anti-cancer properties. Their rich red color comes from the phytochemical betacyanin, which significantly reduces blood homocysteine levels, thus lowering the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Beet greens are an excellent source of chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus, and they contain more iron than spinach does. Their high nutritional value should encourage you to acquire the slightly bitter taste. Both beets and beet greens are excellent sources of iron, which helps regenerate red blood cells, thus supplying the body with fresh oxygen.

    Serving suggestions: Tear beet greens into bite-size pieces, then sauté with garlic, onion, and olive oil until wilted and tender. Roast fresh beets at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until easily sliced. Rub cooled beets with a towel to remove skins. Slice into salads, or dice and toss with vinegar, horseradish, and mustard for a sweet and tangy side dish. These days, some markets sell cooked beets.
  5. Green tea. First poured in China more than 4,000 years ago, green tea has since been consumed as both a beverage and as part of traditional medicine in most of Asia. It's now popular around the world. Recent scientific studies suggest that, among other benefits, it can help reduce the risk of cancer and potentially decrease the incidence of stroke and heart disease. Green tea may even help prevent type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

    Serving suggestions: Green tea tastes better brewed with water cooled for 2 to 5 minutes after boiling. Add it to tea in your teapot and steep for no longer than 1 to 3 minutes. Try it chilled, for refreshing and delicious iced tea.
  6. WalnutsWalnuts. They don't just resemble your brain—they feed it, too. Walnuts are remarkably rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help fight cancer, aid immune function, and support heart health by reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Including walnuts and walnut oil in your diet can also help decrease blood pressure responses to stress.

    Serving suggestions: Sprinkle walnuts on a salad to add protein and crunch, or sauté with vegetables and toss with whole-grain pasta.
  7. Spices. Studies have shown that numerous spices offer health benefits as well as increased flavor, without adding calories.

    • Ginger supports digestive health, reduces nausea, decreases inflammation, and may help prevent cancer. It also contains compounds called phenols and gingerols, which may relieve muscle pain.
    • Cinnamon has been shown in studies to help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.
    • Turmeric has long been used as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent in Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine. Currently, numerous U.S. studies are exploring its possible beneficial effects on Alzheimer's disease, cancer, arthritis, and other clinical disorders.
    • Garlic is a staple of many traditional medicines, used to cure hoarseness, coughs, infections, and digestive disorders. Lab studies have shown garlic to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, as well as possible cardiovascular benefits.
    • Oregano's high thymol content makes it an excellent topical antiseptic, while its abundance of phenols makes it a powerful antioxidant. It's a popular herbal infection-fighter, taken to treat colds, flu, and indigestion.

    Serving suggestions: Seek out Indian, Italian, or Mexican dishes that call for them, or experiment with your favorite recipes.
  8. HoneyHoney has been used since ancient times to treat rashes, wounds, coughs, and sore throats. Recent chemical analysis has proven its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, leading to the approval of wound gels containing raw honey for treating drug-resistant MRSA strains.

    Serving suggestions: Mix into marinades to flavor meat, or stir into salad dressings to add extra body.
  9. Yogurt. In addition to protein, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamins B6 and B12, the fermentation process that transforms milk into yogurt adds probiotics, "good bacteria" that provide digestive and immune support. Eating low-fat yogurt has been found to help promote weight loss. Strained, or Greek, yogurt contains twice the protein of regular yogurt but is lower in sodium, carbohydrate, and sugar. Its thicker texture even makes it a convincing substitute for ice cream.

    Serving suggestions: Try your tuna salad with plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise, or use thick Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.
  10. Dark ChocolateDark Chocolate. If you really need a reason to eat chocolate, health research offers several great ones. Chocolate has high levels of flavonoids, an antioxidant which can help prevent cell damage and perhaps prevent degenerative diseases. A study found that a diet high in flavonoid-rich cocoa powder and dark chocolate reduced the oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Other research shows that cocoa can help improve blood flow in a way similar to aspirin. Chocolate contains tryptophan, which elevates mood, and phenylethylamine, which can raise levels of pleasure-giving endorphins in the brain. And a 2007 UK study found that chocolate melting on the tongue caused a longer and more intense "buzz" than a passionate kiss.

    Serving suggestions: Even dark chocolate still contains calories and fat, so please watch your portion size.

Expand your menus to include these healthy foods, and find more that you enjoy. Eating wisely, and taking pleasure from your plate, is some of the best medicine there is.

Related Articles
"29 Tips for Keeping Portions Under Control"
"7 Foods That Make You Smarter"
"10 Foods You Should Eat"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Tuesday, November 30th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Recipe: Vegetarian Gravy

Recommended by P90X® nutritionist Carrie Wiatt

GravyEvery Thanksgiving table assembles a motley crew of family, friends, and sometimes people who just wander off the street, lured by the smell of roast turkey. The turkey's not going to be a big hit with your vegetarian guests, but often, they can make a great meal out of all the fabulous sides, including the mashed potatoes, yams, and veggies. Instead of a fatty turkey-based gravy, try this vegetarian gravy, which will add layers of flavor to your main course as well as the potatoes and stuffing for your non-fowl-eating friends.

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 3 Tbsp. mushrooms, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
  • 3 tsp. minced parsley
  • 3 tsp. olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

In a skillet, sauté onion, mushrooms, and garlic in 1-1/2 tsp. of the olive oil for 2 or 3 minutes, then transfer them to a bowl. Place remaining oil in skillet over heat and stir in flour; continue to stir until flour browns. Next, add water and whisk until it starts to boil; then add Worcestershire sauce and allow mixture to thicken (about 5 minutes total). Add onion, mushrooms, and garlic back to pan; add parsley and cook for 1 minute more, seasoning to taste with pepper, then remove from heat and serve.

Tip: If gravy is too thick, slowly stir in more warm water to make it thinner. Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 12 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
48 2 grams 1 gram 9 grams 1 gram <1 gram

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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