Test Your Thanksgiving Meal IQ with These 7 Questions

Expert advice to help you separate fact from fiction
Test Your Thanksgiving Meal IQ with These 7 Questions

By: Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD

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What’s informing your choices at the Thanksgiving dinner table? We talked with registered dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, to separate facts from fiction.

1. True or False? Eating turkey makes you sleepy

True. Turkey – along with cheese, eggs and other kinds of meat – contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which research shows helps people go to sleep. The theory is that tryptophan is converted in the body to serotonin and melatonin, a key hormone that — along with Vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid — helps promote sleep. But that late-afternoon urge to doze is probably also heavily influenced by overeating, alcohol consumption, socializing and the flurry of holiday preparations.

2. True or False? Pop-up timers are a reliable way to know when the turkey is done.

False. The best way to tell if your turkey is ready to eat is with a meat thermometer. Check the internal temperature by inserting the thermometer at the center of the stuffing, the thickest part of the breast and in the innermost part of the thigh and wing. You should only roast a bird that has been completely thawed and be sure your oven is set at a minimum of 325 degrees.

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3. True or False? A multigrain roll or bread is the healthiest choice

False. Be wary of food with of labels that use words like “wheat” or “multigrain” if the label doesn’t specify percentages. These breads might sound healthy, but they’re probably made with partially or mostly refined white flour. For example, “wheat flour” is 75 percent white flour and only 25 percent whole wheat. Instead, when shopping for your Thanksgiving day breads, look for the term “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat” – and it should be the first ingredient listed.

4. True or False? Sweet potatoes are a healthier choice than white potatoes

True. Sweet potatoes have a slight nutritional edge over white potatoes if you simply consider the raw vegetable. But if you add a cup of brown sugar to your sweet potatoes to make a sweet syrup or bake them with butter and marshmallows, they are not going to be a healthier choice than a plain, baked white potato. Bottom line:  How you prepare the spud is the most important factor in whether it’s a healthy choice.

5. True or False? Cranberry sauce can cure your urinary tract infection

False. Cranberries have a reputation for curing urinary tract infections (UTIs). But in reality, cranberries have only been proven to be an effective treatment for preventing – not curing – UTIs in people who are at risk for developing them. And you have to eat them all the time, not just at Thanksgiving dinner. Cranberries have an active ingredient that can prevent adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall, particularly E. coli.

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6. True or False? Canned pumpkin isn’t as healthy as fresh pumpkin

False. Canned pumpkin and fresh pumpkin are equally healthy. But beware: not all pumpkin products are created equal. Regular canned pumpkin has one single ingredient: pumpkin, while pumpkin pie mix has sugar and salt added by the manufacturer. Stick with the real thing – regular canned pumpkin – and add your own ingredients. That way, you’ll have more control over the diet-busting sugars and fat.

7. True or False? Chowing down for one day is no big deal.

False. Overeating turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie has become a national pastime. But these foods that we love so much are extremely high in fat and calories. Worse, Thanksgiving often is the kickoff to an entire six weeks of overeating that ends on New Year’s Day. So if you want to be heart-healthy this Thanksgiving – and beyond — consider preparing lighter versions for a few of your favorite dishes. By doing that, watching your portion size, and burning a few calories with a long walk after dinner, you may start a healthy new Thanksgiving day tradition for your family.

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