You don’t have to set aside or give up on good nutrition during the Christmas holidays.
Yes, you can enjoy your cookies, cakes and goodies once in a while, but the holidays also offer a time to enjoy healthy, nutritious seasonal foods, according to Jennifer Wood, a Gundersen Lutheran registered dietitian.
“It’s a great time to eat foods that add lots of good nutrients and a lot more fiber,” Wood said.
“You will be eating more heart-healthy if you can stay away from processed foods like cookies and cakes, and only enjoy them occasionally, and add more traditional and nutritious Christmas and Thanksgiving favorites,” she said.
Here is Wood’s list of five super foods for the holidays:
1. Go nuts over the holidays. Nuts provide protein and are a rich source of mono-unsaturated heart-healthy fats that may actually decrease bad cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk by up to 25 percent, according to a study at Penn State University. Nuts also provide vitamin E, folate, potassium and essential nutrients such as copper and magnesium. Walnuts also are rich in omega-3 fats, which provide additional health benefits. A handful of nuts is one-third of a cup, and eating too many can add calories.
2. Get pumped up for pumpkins. Pumpkins are abundant in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant. One cup of cooked pumpkin has only 40 calories and provides 4 grams of fiber. Although pumpkin pie has a reputation for being high in calories, the fat calories are mostly in the pie crust. Use fat-free evaporated milk for the filling and leave part or all of the crust behind to cut calories. “I eat pumpkin pie for breakfast,” Wood said. “You get your pumpkin in breads, muffins and even pudding.”
3. Apples have it all — great taste, good looks and health claims that can’t be denied. Apples are a low-calorie choice with fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants and phytochemicals that reduce your risk for many chronic diseases. This time of year is is your opportunity to sample different varieties at the local stands. Store apples in your refrigerator so you can enjoy them through the holidays.
4. Enjoy the red and green. Brightly colored foods such as red beets, pomegranates, apples, cherries and cranberries provide an abundance of vitamins A and C, which are important for a strong immune system, along with other phytochemicals important for disease prevention. Green produce such as spinach, broccoli, avocados and pears also contain these important nutrients. Avocados in particular help increase the absorption of nutrients from other foods when eaten at the same time.
5. Go crazy over cranberries. Not only do cranberries bring a festive feel to a holiday gathering, they also provide an abundance of heart-healthy antioxidants and important phytonutrients such as flavonoids, which play a role in inhibiting some types of cancers. Cranberries also help fight urinary-tract infections by inhibiting bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. Wood prefers cranberries over cranberry juice because they contain other phytonutrients and people can eat the fibrous part of the fruit.
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