To Your Health
Healthful Holiday Eating

by Paulette Avery, R.N., M.S.N.

With Thanksgiving coming soon, I ve decided to focus this month on better health through nutrition. So much research supports the connection between what we eat and our health status that it is hard to ignore. I ll pass on some recent findings, tips on making healthier holiday meal choices, and a recipe to use at Thanksgiving or any time you want food that tastes good and contributes to good health.

According to the November issue of Prevention, eating just a little broccoli can have big health benefits. Consuming just a half-cup a week cuts the risk of developing cancer of the rectum and colon, compared with eating no broccoli. Jean Carper reported in one of her Eat Smart columns in USA Weekend that ten percent of cancer deaths come from rectal/colon cancer. But men who ate higher amounts of vegetable fiber from broccoli, garlic, carrots, legumes, and corn were 40 percent less likely to develop colon cancer, while the rate for women dropped by 50 percent. Here s a Prevention recipe that provides an interesting new way to eat broccoli.

Mango Broccoli Salad

1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen broccoli florets

1/4 c. low-fat mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar or other mild vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 c. chopped, dried mango (or golden raisins or other dried fruit)

1/4 c. walnut pieces

Steam or microwave broccoli until tender-crisp. Drain and chop into bite-size pieces. Stir together mayo, vinegar, and sugar, then add to broccoli and stir to coat all pieces. Add mango and nuts; stir to combine. Chill. Serves 8.

More from Prevention: A study found that women who ate spinach or carrots more than twice a week had half the risk of breast cancer of women who didn t eat these vegetables. Researchers believe the beta carotene in carrots and spinach may explain why. Interestingly, another study found that we absorb the maximum amount of beta carotene when vegetables that contain it are cooked and pureed, as in baby food. The idea of eating baby food isn t appealing to me, but incorporating it in soup sounds okay.

So try adding a jar of baby-food carrots to canned or homemade soups, such as lentil, chicken rice, vegetable, or cream of mushroom.

Cutting fat in our diet helps keep our weight in a healthy range and contributes to preventing strokes, heart disease and cancer. Here are some tips from the American Dietetic Association (ADA) for reducing the fat in holiday meals: Try making low-fat substitutions in your recipes. Use evaporated skim milk in soups, sauces, or even your pumpkin pie. That one substitution can save 80 grams of fat and 600 calories for every cup used.

Pureed fruit (here s another chance to use some baby food) can replace the fat in baked goods such as muffins or cakes. The ADA suggests using half pureed fruit and half the original fat in your recipe. Besides reducing fat and calories, nutrition is increased.

Here are some ADA tips for keeping your holiday eating under control:

Don t starve yourself to make room for the big dinner, since limiting yourself early in the day most often leads to overeating later.

Take larger portions of low-cal choices and smaller ones of the rich, high-calorie foods.

You can enjoy dessert with less guilt if you cut back on the margarine or butter on your roll or the gravy on the potatoes.

"Wobble after you gobble" by taking a family walk after the meal. You ll burn calories and get away from the food.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Paulette Avery is a registered nurse and a freelance writer who specializes in health issues.