When you’re a kid, the holidays are a time to anticipate Santa, toys and treats. But let’s face it: Most of us grownups are looking forward to the food! This is THE time of year when indulgence is permissible – even expected.
While a certain amount of gastronomic revelry is OK, remember to indulge in small portions or you will pay the price after the New Year. And sampling foods that would be off-limits any other time of year is fine, too, within limits.
Still, there’s no reason to skip smart, healthy food choices when they can be part of your seasonally scrumptious menus. Here are the nutritional superfoods that deserve a place of honor at your holiday table.
- Sweet Potatoes – These contain Vitamin A as beta-carotene, more than any other fruit or vegetable ... plus, a unique combination of heart healthy nutrients: potassium, fiber, and Vitamin C.
- Cranberries – High in overall antioxidant capacity per gram. One cup contains up to 18% of the recommended Daily Value of fiber, 20% manganese and 18% Vitamin C.
- Pumpkin – Your favorite squash pie packs a healthy dose of Vitamin A as beta-carotene, as well as the eye-healthy phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Tangerines and Apples – Add some to your salad! They contain pectin, a soluble fiber that helps you feel fuller and may protect your heart by supporting healthy blood cholesterol levels.
- Nuts – Make your green beans almondine! Sprinkle walnuts over your salad or dessert! Walnuts, almonds and other nuts contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids: They help lower your cholesterol when eaten as part of a balanced diet. Add them to recipes, and leave a bowl of whole nuts (along with a festive nutcracker) on display for holiday guests.
- Wild Rice, Quinoa – If you are feeling adventurous, substitute these protein-rich whole grains for bread in stuffing. Here’s a great recipe you may want to try.
- Carrots – With a simple yogurt dip, these will be a hit with all ages. Rich in beta-carotene, a sweet/savory side dish featuring carrots (add a little lemon juice, salt, butter and sugar substitute) will add color and nutrition to your holiday table.
- Acorn Squash – A good source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Cut in half, bake add a dash of maple syrup and sprinkle with crushed nuts.
- Cauliflower and broccoli – High in Vitamin C, low in calories, these cruciferous vegetables also contain compounds known as isothiocyanates, which inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Broccoli is also high in beta-carotene and calcium.
- Red Wine – Polyphenols, specifically the antioxidant resveratrol, support heart health. If you drink alcohol, health experts recommend limiting yourself to moderate levels (a glass or two a day).