Here's how to lighten up your holiday spread, without sacrificing taste.
"Healthy" and “the holidays” are two words that may not seem to go together, but what many don't realize is that your favorite holiday dishes can be loaded with superfoods; foods that deliver a whopping dose of nutrients for every delicious serving. Load up on these superfoods in your favorite holiday recipes and lose at least some of the guilt for a truly healthy holiday season.
1. Pumpkin: My absolute favorite food of the season is pumpkin and I do look for every excuse to include it during the holiday season. Pumpkin pie for breakfast and pumpkin soup for lunch are just a few ways our family incorporates this most trendy gourd into our kitchen. Don't be surprised! Pumpkin is loaded with vitamins A and K, as well as fiber and protein. One serving of pumpkin can contain as much as 4 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber and almost half of our daily vitamin A and K needs.
Pumpkin seeds are also a part of pumpkin's superfood status. Pumpkin seeds also have protein, magnesium, and zinc; micronutrients that are important for mood, hormone balance, and energy. As a high protein sack, pumpkin seeds travel safely to my children's school and in my car, keeping our blood sugar levels nicely balanced.
2. Turkey: I don't think a holiday meal exists without at least a nod to turkey. With a high protein content and lower fat content, a 3-ounce serving of protein can contain up to 30 grams of protein and B vitamins that regulate energy and mood. It also contains tryptophan, the feel good amino acid that encourages relaxation, sleep, and neurotransmitter balance.
The dark meat of turkey often has a higher mineral and nutrient content than white meat while processed turkey in any form; deli meats, processed turkey burgers, or hot dogs are high in salt. Enjoy your roasted turkey and use the leftover turkey in sandwiches, salads, or soups to keep your energy balanced.
3. Pomegranate: Decorative and colorful, pomegranate seeds liven up a holiday table. Pomegranates are superfoods at any time of the year as the high antioxidant content of this fruit makes it a nutrition powerhouse. The main ingredients of pomegranates are punicalagins, potent antioxidants and punicic acid, or pomegranate seed oil. Pomegranate seed oil contains fatty acid conjugated linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that plays a role in suppressing inflammation and improving markers of heart disease and cholesterol.
There are some studies that suggest drinking up to 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day reverses prostate and breast cancer. I have used both pomegranate juice and pomegranate seeds, but during the holidays, these seeds brighten salads and serve as tasty companions to many of the holiday meats.
4. Cranberries: The forgotten fruit, cranberries make its debut every holiday season. Cranberries are a low-calorie fruit with high amounts of vitamin C, E, and fiber. The key ingredient in cranberries is proanthocyanidins, which are key in fighting off urinary tract infections. Cranberries are also thought to slow down tumor progression, improve blood pressure, and improve oral health.
Cranberries may have first made their way to the holiday table by the Native American Indians who used cranberries as a dye for clothing. Today, cranberries adorn holiday tables and dress up another holiday superfood, turkey!
5. Green Beans: Often ignored, green beans should be considered a superfood. Whether French, fine, or string, your favorite bean has been found to help glucose regulation, either through its high fiber content or its ability to improve digestive health. Green beans may also improve eye health, since they contain both lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants found to prevent macular degeneration. Whether a green bean casserole, a purple bean stir-fry, or just steamed French green beans, bring beans back to your holiday menu.
Many of these superfoods may get disguised during the holiday season with butter, sugar, or salt. Learn to add them to your holiday traditions and meals, while cutting down on the unhealthier ingredients.