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Thanksgiving’s Superfood Sweet Potatoes – Without the Sugar Splurge

Friday, November 20, 2020

This year many Americans are rethinking how they will celebrate Thanksgiving during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although this holiday will probably look different from any in recent memory, it's still important to celebrate with familiar foods and rituals.

If you’re gathering in person, keep the number of diners small – ideally including no one outside your coronavirus “pod” – wear masks when not eating, practice social distancing and keep the dining room well-ventilated. Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed this county-by-county map to help you understand the level of risk in your own community.

But whether you’re sharing an intimate meal, preparing traditional recipes to deliver to family and neighbors or having a virtual dinner with family and friends, EWG has tips for making Thanksgiving healthier.

The season of sugar is upon us, and sweet holiday dishes often play a part in longstanding family traditions (and annual gains in body fat). One favorite holiday food is sweet potato casserole, topped high with caramelized, gooey marshmallows. This tried-and-true candied dish is a time-honored but controversial indulgence – beloved by some family members, revolting to others and not exactly healthy. At over 50 grams of sugar a serving, it just may be the sweetest dish at the Thanksgiving table.

Sweet potatoes are nutritional superfoods, packed with vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium; low in bad fats and sodium, and high in dietary fiber. However, candied sweet potatoes or yams – they’re actually two different vegetables – are a different story.

Although the sweet potato is the main ingredient of this decadent side dish, most recipes ask for up to six cups of sugar before baking. And that’s before the addition of sugary marshmallows.

Kraft, one of the leading marshmallow brands in the U.S., makes its marshmallows with about four teaspoons of sugar per serving, according to EWG’s Food Scores database. Kraft marshmallows are more than half sugar by weight. They also contain artificial dye.

Study after study has shown sugar to be bad for our health. Consuming sugar has been linked to cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression and obesity. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 25 grams a day for women and 36 grams per day for men.

This year, bring delicious and nutritious sweet potatoes to your table without the sticky sugar. Instead, give the casserole a healthy makeover by ditching the marshmallows for a topping of crushed pineapple or nuts, granola and dried fruit. Or roast your sweet potatoes to bring out their natural sweetness, mash or whip them until creamy, add them to a salad or puree them into a soup.

Recipes abound, so explore and experiment. You might discover a new Thanksgiving tradition – and tasty, healthy dishes to enjoy any time.

Please consult your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19. This material is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.

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