As the winter holidays make their quick descent, visions of sugarplums – and other tasty holiday treats – dance in our heads. But what about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Not to worry – many favorite holiday foods are not only delicious, but also nutritious. If you know the right foods to indulge in, they can help give you the energy you need to travel, cook, spend time with family and get all of your gift shopping done without missing a beat. Even foods with a less healthy reputation can be improved upon with some minor changes. Here are a few holiday fares you dont have to skimp on this year.
Chocolate: Dark chocolate is high in Flavonols. Research indicates that Flavonols promote healthy hearts and blood vessels by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, making blood platelets less sticky and lowering cholesterol. The fat in chocolate is neutral, but the calories still count. Small amounts of very dark chocolate are the healthiest choice.
Cranberries: Cranberries are rich in heart-healthy, anti-aging antioxidants. Bake fresh cranberries with yams or sweet potatoes, drizzled with a touch of maple syrup and top with pecans for a special holiday treat. Canned cranberry sauce is very high in sugar, so youre better off making homemade cranberry sauce by boiling cranberries with Splenda and chopped apples or pears.
Pomegranate: Pomegranate is a rich source of antioxidants, and the perfect decorative garnish on your dark green salad. Pomegranate juice may also be added to your hot spiced tea for an extra kick of vitamins and flavor.
Pumpkin: Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene (vitamin A), fiber and potassium. To save calories, make your pumpkin pie with evaporated skim milk. If you are watching your blood glucose, substitute half the sugar in your pie with Splenda.
For a quick healthy treat, combine half a can of pumpkin with 1 cup sugar-free vanilla pudding.
Stuffing: Traditionally a fatty addition to most holiday dinners, stuffing can become an ally to those trying to keep the holidays nutritious. Make your stuffing from brown and wild rice and use low-sodium chicken broth (instead of fat) to keep it moist and flavorful. Use nuts, celery, chopped vegetables, dried fruit and onions to add fiber and vitamins as well as crunch and texture.
Turkey: Skinless turkey (especially the white meat) is a lower-calorie protein that really fills you up. Turkey is also high in zinc, iron, B vitamins and potassium.
Wine: All wine is naturally heart-healthy in moderation, but red wines are also high in the antioxidant Resveratrol which promotes blood vessel health. If you avoid alcohol, you can also find Resveratrol in a little purple grape juice. To control calories, ask for a spritzer half wine or juice, half calorie-free seltzer water.
Denise Cedar, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., is a Silverton Health Registered Dietitian.