Here are some healthy seasonal holiday food ideas to consider when planning your upcoming parties and family get-togethers!
Raisins: Cholesterol and fat free, rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, potassium, calcium and B Vitamins, raisins are a satisfying alternative to holiday candy. Try them on their own or with a little dark chocolate.
Pumpkins: Okay, we know that your holiday dose of pumpkin will probably come served in a pie and along with plenty of butter, eggs and cream. However, there is enough nutrition in pumpkin to make it worth mentioning here. Pumpkins are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, B6, potassium, selenium and iron and even your standard pumpkin pie is better for you than just about any other pie or sugary dessert you’re likely to encounter this season. Try making your pie with fat-free half and half and some trans-fat free lite margarine or try it mashed like potatoes for a yummy side.
Cranberries: This tart cousin of the blueberry is so nutritious you might want to consider eating it all year round. Cranberries are full of antioxidants, Vitamins C and K, improve blood vessel function and improve the cholesterol profile (HDL versus LDL). There is also some promising research that shows cranberries act as a probiotic and prevent the formation of tumors.
Sweet Potatoes: This homely little root is also one of nature’s most nutritious vegetables. The sweet potato is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, B6, potassium, copper and iron. We mash ours with a little fat-free half and half, some trans-fat free lite margarine and little brown sugar for a delicious and healthy holiday dish!
Nuts: Rich in Omega fatty acids and high in fiber, nuts like Walnuts, Almonds and Pecans make a great snack for the holidays and are a healthy alternative to sweets. I encourage you to serve a bowl of nuts in the shell, along with a nutcracker, at your holiday party. In the shell means unprocessed plus, it’s a fun way to snack and the time spent getting the nuts out of the shell means less time spent filling up on snacks. Studies show that eating nuts regularly reduces the risks of many diseases like diabetes, coronary disease and dementia.
Red Wine: Who said healthy couldn’t be fun? Nothing says festive like a glass of good cheer and if you choose to imbibe over the holidays why not make it a glass of red wine? Red wine is a heart healthy alternative to other cocktails, rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, red wine improves the cholesterol profile (HDL versus LDL) and prevents plaque formation in arteries. You’ll want to limit your consumption however, drinking more than two servings a day seems to reverse any health benefits you might have otherwise received.
Wild Rice: On its own, or served as part of a rice medley, wild rice is actually a marsh grass that is native to North America. Wild rice is higher in protein than most other grains, is a good source of fiber and is high in Vitamins B3, folate potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Dark Chocolate: Not just tasty, dark chocolate seems to have some heart healthy benefits. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants (containing eight times as many as found in strawberries) and flavonoids that seem to lower blood pressure and improve the cholesterol profile (HDL versus LDL). It also contains Oleic Acid a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil. And let’s face it, for most of us, eating dark chocolate makes us feel good which is probably due to the serotonin that it contains.
It’s even better for you when paired with other heart healthy treats like walnuts, almonds and raisins. If you’re looking for a sweet treat at the holidays, choose dark chocolate.
Leafy Greens: For many cultures greens like Mustard, Kale, Spinach or Collards are a traditional New Year’s dish as well as a nutritional powerhouse, often eaten along with black-eyed peas to bring luck and prosperity in the coming year. Try your leafy greens steamed, tossed in a salad, pan wilted or as an ingredient for dips. No matter how you prepare them, it’s tough to beat the nutritional punch that leafy greens deliver. Pound for pound they are quite possibly the most nutrient rich of any food and all are rich in Calcium, Iron and potassium as well as Vitamins K, C and E and oxolates.
Broccoli: Almost ubiquitous at holiday gatherings, whether it’s on a veggie tray or served as a side dish, load up on broccoli which is chock full of potent, cancer-fighting compounds as well as being rich in Vitamins A, C, K and folate. Here’s one side, or snack, you can feel good about when you’re going back for seconds!