By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.
You’ve seen the headlines about the hazards of holiday eating. Take them with a grain of salt.
Many articles are based on the false notion that Americans add at least five pounds to their frames between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but there’s no evidence to back up that claim. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, it’s more like one pound. The problem is, if you fail to shed holiday weight every year, you could easily be 10 pounds heavier in a decade.
It pays to be vigilant about portions, especially during the holidays. Yet, there’s no need to feel guilty about enjoying favorite foods that you may have just a few times a year. In fact, many foods found on holiday tables are actually good for you. Here’s what they have to offer.
Eggnog supplies as much bone-building calcium as milk, and it also provides protein. Sip light eggnog, drink less regular eggnog, or both, and forgo the rum to save on calories.
Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Nibble on small portions of the darkest chocolate you can find; it contains feel-good compounds and may help lower your blood pressure as part of a balanced diet. Cocoa powder is packed with antioxidants that protect your cells. Cozy up with homemade hot chocolate prepared with cocoa powder and sugar or other sweetener, and low-fat milk.
One and a half ounces of hard cheese, such as cheddar, Havarti and Swiss supplies as much calcium as eight ounces of milk. Choose reduced-fat cheese for fewer calories and less fat and cholesterol, and pair it with fresh fruit or vegetables instead of fatty crackers.
Walnuts, pistachios, almonds and other nuts offer heart-healthy unsaturated fat, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and plant compounds that ward off cell damage. A one-ounce portion, about the amount that fits into a small palm, is all you need to reap nuts’ many benefits and to feel satisfied.
Apples are full of fluid and fiber to help fill you up. Pumpkin provides potassium to lower blood pressure as well as carotenoids, the raw material for making vitamin A in the body that wards off cell damage. Save hundreds of calories when you forgo pie crust and pass up the ice cream.
What about pecan pie, my all-time favorite holiday food? Sorry, I can’t help you with that one, except to say have a small piece, and enjoy to the fullest!
What are your favorite healthy holiday foods? Share them in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking Community.