by Kimberly Allen, RN
Tis the season for family gatherings, parties and gift giving. When I worked in the hospital and nursing homes I can’t tell you how many family members of patients brought food, cookies, candies, cakes and on and on to the nurses station as gifts for the staff. Many of them were home made and absolutely delicious, but high in sugar and empty carbohydrates. Food is as much a part of the holiday season as gift giving but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy. There are numerous “holiday” foods that are actually very healthy. They contain antioxidants and poly-nutrients as well as omega 3 fatty acids and even nutrients that can help prevent cancer. Two of the most common ones are pumpkin and cranberries.
I’m one of those people that loves to cook/bake and give food as gifts at Christmas and one of the foods I make that everyone not only looks forward to but have come to expect is cranberry nut bread. Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants making it a delicious and healthy addition to any holiday buffet. Cranberries can also be added as a relish or sauce served as a condiment or side dish. I’ve even had cranberry salsa and I must admit I was surprised by how good it was. Cranberry juice also makes a great punch for your party.
Pumpkin is a vegetable that is traditionally seen during the holiday season, but should really be incorporated into your diet on a more regular basis. It has more beta carotene than any other food. Pumpkin can be used for more than pumpkin pie, There are numerous breads, bars, cookies and even soups that can be made with pumpkin.
Smoked salmon is another healthy option for your holiday buffet. Served alone with a whole grain cracker like triscuit or in a dip with crackers or backed chips. Smoked salmon dip also is great with raw vegetables. Shrimp is always a healthy option and there are also many healthy ways to serve it. Cocktail sauce and salsa are great dips as their main ingredient is tomatoes and tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C, potassium and lycopene.
A raw vegetable should be a part of every holiday buffet and don’t be afraid to try different vegetables like cherry tomatoes,or avocado slices along with the traditional broccoli cauliflower, carrots and celery.
Make your own “trail mix” snack with dried cranberries (craisens), dried blueberries, nuts like almonds and pistachios along with bits of dark chocolate. Adding nuts to salads or served alone as a snack are a healthy option because they are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, proteins, vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fats. Nuts are also a better alternative to chips and crackers, which are made from bleached flour and are nothing but empty calories. Another healthy appetizer idea is to put out bowls of popcorn to snack on. Popcorn is a whole grain and snacking on popcorn can help you to feel less hungry so you don’t “pig out” on other less healthy foods.
You can still have sweets, but try to use more fruits and dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. People love fruit salads if you avoid or uses low fat or fat free sour cream you can still have a
great salad. Serve it with the little mandarin oranges called clementines they are loaded with antioxidants and phyto-nutrients. Dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate as it contains
flavonols and phenols. And it makes great fudge.
For the dinner table using sweet potatoes and/or winter squash provides more beta carotene that white potatoes. Wild rice is a great whole grain that can be used in soups, as a side dish instead of white potatoes or even in the stuffing.
You can have a party, go to a party and cook or bake during the holidays and still eat healthy. Happy Holidays and Bon Apetit.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.