It’s that time of year again – the holiday “eating season” – that gluttonous period between Thanksgiving and New Years. Surprisingly, a new study has found that the average American adult gains only about a pound during the holidays . But, according to the researchers, most people don’t lose this extra weight and thus over the years the holiday pounds add up. But here’s some good news: it is possible to eat healthfully and maintain your weight during the holidays. In fact, some of the most traditional holiday foods are inherently very healthful – it’s all in how you prepare them. Here are my top choices:
1. Pumpkin pie – Loaded with betacarotene and potassium and only about 250 calories per slice (less than half of that of pecan pie), pumpkin pie is the best choice among holiday desserts. Skip the crust and you’ll save even more calories – after all, it’s the filling that’s most tasty. Consider stocking up on canned pumpkin during the holidays as it’s harder to find in stores throughout the year. It makes a great addition to soups, smoothies and puddings.
2. Pumpkin seeds also make a great snack. Subtly sweet, nutty and chewy, pumpkin seeds are freshest in the fall when pumpkins are in season.They are a good source of healthy Omega 3 fats and the minerals zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and copper. Sprinkle them in salads, on cottage cheese or on hot or cold cereals, or add them to trail mix. Pumpkin butter – made from the seeds- makes a delicious spread on toast, bananas or apples.
3. Sweet potato and yams are also loaded with betacarotene, potassium and fiber. Instead of serving them with marshmallows and brown sugar, mash and sweeten them naturally with nutmeg and cinnamon.
4. Cranberries are particularly rich in the antioxidants polyphenols, and they contain a lot of other helpful phytonutrients as well such as Vitamin C. Their health benefits may include: the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections, food-borne illnesses, ulcers and tooth decay. Some studies also show that cranberries may either raise HDL cholesterol or lower LDL cholesterol.
Take advantage of cranberries’ tartness by using them to replace vinegar or lemon when dressing your green salads. Combine fresh cranberries with other fruits such as oranges, apples, pineapple or pears to balance their tartness or add a little fruit juice, honey or maple syrup to chopped fresh cranberries. Sprinkle a handful of dried cranberries over a bowl of hot oatmeal, barley, or any cold cereal.
5. Brussels sprouts – One of my personal favorites, brussels sprouts are loaded with antioxidants. They are also an excellent source of bone-building, blood-clotting Vitamin K and are also good source of Vitamin C, manganese, folate, magnesium. Steamed or baked, brussels sprouts are great year-round. Try steaming them with green beans and collard greens and some celery.
In my next post I’ll discuss 5 more delicious, nutritious holiday foods. Until then….