By Breea Johnson, MS RD
Thanksgiving is around the corner and it seems a lot of people are stressed about what to eat and what not to eat. The holidays can definitely be a time of sweets, gooey casseroles and nutrient-poor side dishes, but it's also a time when many great nutrient-rich and fertility-friendly foods are in prime season. Check out these great picks along with some of my favorite recipes for a nutrition boost this holiday season:
- Squash - Do you know the difference between summer squash and winter squash? Summer squash are thin-skinned squashes like zucchini or yellow squash whereas winter squash has a thicker skin like acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash. In the fall, winter squash predominate and are utilized in everything from salads to soups and desserts. Squash is a great source of beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C and potassium. They even contain omega-3 fatty acids and are loaded with fiber! One of my favorite recipes is Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup with Fresh Rosemary. Try also pairing squash with roasted chicken and sautéed spinach; or roast squash and add to a salad for a sweet, hearty taste; or use spaghetti squash instead of pasta for a dish.
- Kale - I think of kale as an unsung hero, as it's actually one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables around! While not very popular among the mainstream crowd, it has a following of its own among many die-hard nutrition fans. Most people don't know what it tastes like but you might recognize it as it is used for decorating around many salad bars! Kale contains over 45 different phytonutrients and is loaded with Vitamin K, A, C and manganese. Kale also contains some omega-3 fatty acids. There are three main types of kale: Curly Kale (the one you see at salad bars), Lacinato Kale (a much more tender-tasting kale) and Red Russian Kale (often only found at Farmer's Markets). I think the latter two are the tastier of the bunch. One of my favorite kale dishes is Emerald City Salad which makes a great side dish for Thanksgiving! Kale is also tasty sautéed with garlic and olive oil; added to scrambled eggs; or in soups, such as a white bean and kale soup.
- Beets and beet greens - Root vegetables are some of the most nutrient-rich vegetables if they are grown in good soil. Beets are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich and helpful for detoxification. They are high in folate, manganese and iron – all nutrients that are essential for fertility and pregnancy. One of my favorite beet recipes is Luscious Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds as it incorporates both beets and beet greens to make a delicious and nutrient-rich salad! Beets are also great in soups, mixed with roasted vegetables, or even in brownies — Gluten-free Walnut Beet Brownies!
- Cranberries - Cranberries actually have a very short growing season - fresh cranberries are harvested between Labor Day and Halloween and appear in markets from October through December. Cranberries are very nutrient-rich, however, most cranberries whether cooked or dried contain lots of added sugar. Cranberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels (containing resveratrol, piceatannol, and pterostilbene) and they are also a good source of Vitamin C. One of my favorite cranberry recipes is Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish. My mother used to make this to accompany turkey growing up and it's something that remains a must have at Thanksgiving. I even make it from time to time to put on a turkey sandwich. Try it instead of a traditional cranberry sauce and see what you think.
So, this holiday season don't stress about not eating perfectly. Instead, have fun, have some pie, enjoy your family and friends and try incorporating some great fall fertility-friendly foods into your diet!
For more information about Pulling Down the Moon's nutrition program, please check out www.pullingdownthemoon.com or call 301-610-7755 (Shady Grove) or 312-321-0004 (Chicago).