If you feel a little queasy when thinking about the holiday food scene, unfortunately, you’re not alone. The pressure to “eat healthy” can turn holiday fun into holiday dread. It’s true that many of our favorite holiday foods are richer–higher in fat and sugar–than we might choose to eat our everyday food, but it’s surprising how many totally nutritious, traditional holiday foods truly deserve a place in our meals and meals. Snacks out of the holiday season, too. Here are my best picks.
football. These cute little sprouts, which look like baby cabbage, outperform other common members of the cruciferous vegetable family (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and mustard greens) for total amounts of glucosinolates, the phytochemicals that give this family anti-cancer. and anti-inflammatory properties. Grill it, saute it, or chop it up for a festive salad, perhaps with some dried cranberries and chopped pecans.
Cranberries. The beauty of these berries is one of the reasons they are such powerful nutrients – their bright red color is the outward sign of the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic phytochemicals contained within them. Cranberries, like other berries, are among the richest sources of antioxidants – just keep in mind that you don’t get the same benefit from cranberry jelly as you do from eating whole berries. While Wisconsin and Massachusetts are the largest producers of cranberries in the United States, they are grown in the Northwest as well.
pear. Pears have similar health benefits to apples and are rich in fiber – a pear contains about 20% of your daily needs – and a variety of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and potassium. Pears, especially the red varieties, also contain a range of health-promoting phytochemicals. Pears do not ripen on the tree, so let them ripen at room temperature until the end of the neck (trunk) comes to a gentle pressure. Note that the pears do not change color when ripe. Most of the pears in the grocery store come from the Northwest, and they’re good for snacks as well as for elegant desserts–like pears poached in red wine–or more rustic, like crunchy pears. Or add pear slices to a holiday salad with walnuts or pecans and some blue cheese.
pecans; All nuts are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, proteins, and fiber, but pecans are unique in that they contain multiple forms of vitamin E and are particularly rich in gamma-tocopherol. Gamma tocopherol has been shown to prevent the oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol – which is important, because oxidized LDL contributes to arterial inflammation and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The pecan also has the distinction of being the only tree nut truly native to the United States. Prepare some spiced nuts to serve with cocktails, sprinkle chopped pecans on oatmeal or add them to pumpkin bread.
sweet potato. Sweet potatoes, with their vibrant orange flesh, are one of the best food sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, important for healthy eyes and skin, among other things. They are also rich in vitamin C, anti-inflammatory antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Although including some fat in a sweet potato recipe helps your body absorb all that wonderful beta-carotene, many holiday sweet potato recipes are too high in fat and sugar to be considered a dessert, so consider whether your old standard recipe Your could use a little tweaking.