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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

Pumpkin-Pecan Palooza

When I think about Thanksgiving, I can smell the waft of baked apples or spiced pumpkin emanating from the kitchen. And, of course, I can picture Norman Rockwell’s portrait of a mom delivering a roasted turkey platter to the family dinner table that evokes such heart-tug, nostalgic memories of times ago.

While Thanksgiving Day conjures up our favorite yummy foods, the marathon feast can add upwards of 3,000 calories (that’s almost one pound of fat) to one’s waistline if you’re not careful. Appetizers and drinks alone can add up to 1,000 calories. So, if you are hosting, remember to stock your holiday beverages with some lower calories options like spiced brews, wine spritzers, and sparkling waters, and for a a festive flair, serve hot, mulled apple cider with a swizzle, cinnamon stick.

Since it’s easy to mindlessly pick at appetizers while mingling with guests, try to avoid arriving at any party in a hungry state. Scope out the food options and set limits on your indulgences before dinner is served. Including protein at all meals helps to stabilize blood sugar spikes, which often leads to uncontrolled eating cycles.

In keeping with the season, party-perfect appetizers include sizzling hot turkey meatballs that have been slow cooked in a blend of cranberry and chili sauce. Brie can double as a cheesy dessert when served with raspberry or cranberry preserves. Spread the jam evenly over the top of the brie and bake for 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven, or until the cheese begins to melt. Serve with sliced apples. For the kiddos, pair Pecan Praline Dipping sauce with pretzels or sliced apples for a scrumptious sweet and salty treat.

Cranberries, high in Vitamin C and heart-healthy antioxidants, add an abundance of nutrition and flavor to foods while pumpkin is rich in fiber, Vitamin C and potassium. Besides the classic sides to the holiday main fare, impress your guests with the season’s nutty flavors of toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top of apple cider-glazed carrots or a fiber-packed, wheat berry salad bursting with cranberries, diced apples, and pecans. Consider a cranberry-walnut rice salad dish, or a loaf of cranberry orange bread as accompaniments to the meal. Try roasting whole, “head-to-tail” carrots with a blend of seasonings for orange-colored veggies that are packed with beta-carotene.


Pumpkin trifles are easy to make and are festive-looking when served in fluted stemware. Spoon vanilla pudding into the bottom of the glass, add crumbled pumpkin bread, and alternate ingredients until you reach the rim. Top off with pecans. Or layer vanilla yogurt with pumpkin granola. Top of with (real) whipped cream topping for a dollop of indulgence. Pies are a must for the dessert table, but for those that are watching their waist lines, offer some lighter options like pumpkin mousse or iced gingerbread biscotti. This way, all of your guests can enjoy a festive dessert to go along with that cup of freshly brewed, spiced latte!

Want a festive parting gift for your guests as they head out the door? Fill mason jars, with pumpkin-spiced granola, candied pecans, toasted pumpkin seeds, or an assortment of nuts and dried cranberries and tie a bow with twine for a rustic remembrance of the day.

Being Thankful

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day to share good food with family and friends, but it’s also the perfect time to reflect on gratitude. Remind yourself why you are thankful this holiday season, and keep in mind that others may not be so fortunate. If you are hosting a party, perhaps suggest to your guests that in lieu of bringing food for the party, they can bring a packaged food item that can be donated to a local food pantry. Such acts of goodwill embody the true spirit of giving.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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