Brighten Up Your Thanksgiving Table

By Caity R. RSS Tue, November 24, 2020

Written by Alex Evenson, Philabundance Nutrition Educator, with additions from Caity Rietzen, Culinary Literacy Center Supervisor


Cooking is a wonderful way to bring people together, and while this year's holiday will be unlike any other, we hope that you have a special day with smaller gatherings—or even virtual ones!

Since it's already going to be different, why not try out some new, healthy recipes?

Thanksgiving for many families in the United States is the biggest cooking holiday of the year and is full of food traditions. Generally, Thanksgiving centers around turkey and lots of buttery, starchy sides: white potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, corn, stuffing, rolls, and of course pie(s) for dessert.  

Starches such as potatoes, bread, and pasta are an important part of our diet and provide an easy to digest source of energy for our bodies. When eaten in their "whole" form (such as eating whole wheat bread or potatoes with the skins on), they are full of lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

However, when it comes to vegetables, it’s important to mix it up and eat other types besides the starchy ones. Dark leafy greens, red, orange, purple... you get the idea. Phytonutrients (which are also called antioxidants, polyphenols, and more) are what give fruits and vegetable their color and also strengthen the plant’s immune system. Similarly, when we eat colorful plant foods they can help us prevent common diseases like diabetes and cancer. You may be familiar with how orange produce like pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene which improves our vision and immune system. Red and purple produce like plums and cranberries improve blood vessel health, and green veggies like cabbage, brussel sprouts, and collard greens have compounds that work to block cancer cells.

Instead of trying to memorize all of this, it’s easiest to remember that all colors have benefits for our bodies and to try to "eat the rainbow". There are many colorful fall and winter fruits and vegetables to try this holiday season. Brighten your plate with purple cabbage, winter greens, golden beets, cranberries (fresh, frozen or canned), and winter squash. And on Thanksgiving day, as well as year round, see if you can fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables first!  

To help jumpstart your rainbow-influenced Thanksgiving meal, the Culinary Literacy Center and Philabundance recently hosted a workshop providing healthy nutrition tips with recipe demonstrations from Chef Char Nolan. You can watch the full video via our Facebook page to help get you ready for the holiday! We also highly recommend these delicious Harvest Corn Muffins, featured in the presentation:

Harvest Corn Muffins
Recipe by Char Nolan

These delicious corn muffins are filled with pieces of fresh corn and dried cherries. This recipe is a nice way to enjoy corn muffins with added flavors and nutrients. They are easy to make and will quickly become a favorite! This recipe can also be made egg and dairy-free.

Makes 6-8 Muffins


  • 1 ½ cups of unbleached flour
  • ½ cup of yellow cornmeal
  • 6 teaspoons of sugar or your favorite sweetener (maple syrup, agave, etc.)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • I cup of cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (about 1 medium sweet potato)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring
  • 6 ounces of non-dairy or dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 cup of fresh, frozen or canned corn
  • ½ cup of dried cherries


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine the following ingredients together: flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Mix together and set aside.
  • In another bowl, add the mashed sweet potatoes, vanilla, and non-dairy milk. Mix all ingredients together well.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of flour and other ingredients, stir well, and mix by hand. Mixture will be on the thick side, add more milk, if needed.
  • Add corn and cherries, still mixing well. Allow mixture to "proof" for about ten minutes.
  • Using a three-ounce scoop, place the batter in a lined muffin tin, filling each 2/3 filled.
  • Place in the middle rack of a pre-heated oven, and cook for 20-23 minutes.
  • Muffins should be golden brown. Allow to cool. Enjoy and celebrate!

Additional Resources:

Learn more about the Culinary Literacy Center at or @freelibrarycook on Facebook and Instagram.

Learn more about Philabundance at or @philabundance on Facebook and Instagram

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