While it may seem that every food you encounter this time of year is loaded with calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, there are plenty of holiday foods that are healthy. Eat these seasonal favorites to give your holiday eating plan a nutritional boost.
Since citrus can be found in the supermarket year round, it’s sometimes forgotten that it is truly a winter fruit. Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are most delicious during the holiday season. They contain flavonoids that may have the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells. Citrus is also rich in vitamin C, which improves the absorption of iron and acts as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage to cells. Whether eaten whole or juiced, citrus is a healthy addition to holiday meals.
Cranberries are often served as a sweet sauce or dried with added sugar. But the natural, tart flavor of fresh cranberries can be enjoyed with little sweetener. Cranberries provide vitamin C and fiber, and they are full of disease-fighting antioxidants. Cranberries have been found to block bacteria that leads to urinary tract infections, and preliminary research shows they may also block bacteria that leads to stomach ulcers. Chop fresh cranberries and add them to salads or cook them with steel cut oatmeal. Whole cranberries can also be roasted in the oven and added to savory side dishes or blended into sauces.
While it’s still loaded with sugar, molasses has some qualities that make it stand out among other sweeteners. Blackstrap molasses contains iron as well calcium and potassium. When you need to add a touch of sweetness during cooking, try adding some blackstrap molasses and experiment with it as a sweetener for holiday baking.
Nuts provide a lean source of protein and heart-healthy fats. Research shows that eating nuts can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts offer a unique variety of nutrients, including vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber. Choose lightly salted or unsalted nuts to reduce sodium intake, and enjoy a few as a snack or added to a holiday side dish.
Pomegranates are available October to January, making the holidays the perfect time to find the whole fruit in the supermarket. Pomegranates contain vitamin K and potassium. They are also loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, including punicalagin which is unique to the fruit. These antioxidants have been found to protect cells from the free radical damage that may lead to some chronic diseases. The crunchy, edible seeds in the arils also supply fiber. Sprinkle them into salads or onto your morning oatmeal.
Potatoes have long been labeled as unhealthy because they are most often eaten as French fries. The truth is, potatoes are rich in potassium and provide vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, and iron. There are also many varieties available, which allows you to get creative when preparing healthy meals. Try roasting potatoes with herbs and olive oil, or make mashed purple potatoes for a flavorful side dish that is perfect for a holiday meal.
Sweet potatoes are a healthy holiday staple as long as you go easy on the sugar and butter when preparing them. They supply calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. For a healthier side dish, try cubing and roasting sweet potatoes, or you can also bake them and then stuff the sweet potatoes with your favorite healthy ingredients.