Posted on Dec 23, 2016, 6 a.m.
Many traditional holiday foods contain a surprising amount of health benefits.
The holiday season can be a wonderful time of celebration and family gatherings, but some people worry about how they will resist the temptation to eat too much of the delicious foods that will show up on the dinner table. They may be surprised to learn that many of these seasonal foods are healthy and actually fit into the anti-aging category. Of course, how these foods are prepared does influence whether they are healthy or contain too much fat and sugar. The following is a list of eight healthy holiday foods that can help celebrants avoid feeling guilty after a tasty dinner enjoyed with their family and friends:
- Turkey - the traditional holiday turkey has both white and dark meat, and both are high in protein and low in fat. The average 3 ounce serving of white or dark meat has just 135 calories with 24 grams of protein. Eating turkey reduces stress due to its serotonin-producing Tryptophan, which may help to relieve any holiday-induced stress.
- Cranberries - are the traditional condiment served with turkey, and the tangy berries are a significant source of Vitamin C and anthocyanins, an antioxidant thought to help prevent cancer, heart disease and protect the urinary tract.
- Garlic and Onions - are used to flavor meat and vegetable dishes commonly served at holiday gatherings. Both of these bulb vegetables have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can protect against cancer, cardiac problems, and certain degenerative diseases.
- Pumpkin pie - is high on the list of holiday desserts. This tasty squash is high in carotenoids, Vitamin A, iron and potassium, and is low in calories and fat. Pumpkin is used to make the custard filling for pies, and the nutmeg and cinnamon used for flavor adds antioxidants for extra anti-aging benefits.
- Nuts - almost any variety are a healthy snack, and various nuts are included in holiday dishes such as dressing for the turkey and also in desserts. Nutritionists recommend at least four servings of nuts each week, but no more than 4 ounces per serving due to the high-fat content of most nuts.
- Apples - are a popular fall treat, and this fruit has multiple health benefits. An apple a day adds heart-healthy fiber and flavonols that prevent cholesterol, certain cancers and some degenerative diseases. Apple pie is a special holiday treat that also includes cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Butternut squash - can be used in multiple ways, but the holiday table often includes a casserole of this healthy squash cooked with spices, mashed and topped with a dollop of butter. Naturally high in fiber and low in calories, the squash can also be baked or used to make a flavorful soup.
- Dark chocolate or cacao - can be used to make delicious holiday desserts, and using granulated stevia rather than sugar keeps these offerings in the healthy category. Chocolate is high in phytochemicals that are beneficial to the heart, but it is important that the chocolate contains at least 70 percent cacao.
Holiday celebrations where so many rich and fattening foods are served may be one reason people choose weight loss as their New Years resolution. It is possible to get through the holiday season without gaining unwanted pounds. Arming oneself with a list of healthy foods and nutritional information makes it possible to enjoy a holiday season that is both happy and healthy.