By Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD
Every holiday season the media focuses on the large amount of calories people will be eating and how bad it is for them. But I look at holiday eating differently. In fact, there are many traditional foods this time of year that pack a nutritional punch.
Although the richness in how these items are prepared for holidays may be better left to occasional treats, the foods themselves should make a showing in our diets long after the holidays are over. And here’s why.
1. Turkey: This white meat is a powerhouse of nutrition. Only three ounces of turkey contain 21% the Daily Value (DV) for niacin, 36% for selenium, 12% for zinc, 18% for phosphorus, 21% for B6, and 27g protein. Turkey is also a lean protein source that is low in saturated fat (white meat, that is).
So swap out some red meat in your diet with turkey, use the leftovers to make sandwiches, or roast one for a loved one’s birthday.
2. Cranberries: These red berries have become synonymous with holiday eating. But most people may not know that their amazing antioxidant fighting power makes for year-long good health. In fact, cranberries beat out most fruits and vegetables when it comes to levels antioxidants, except blueberries. For more on the juicy antioxidant details see this WebMD article.
You can find cranberries frozen year round or stock up on fresh in the fall and winter.
3. Sweet potatoes: These orange colored potatoes offer plenty of vitamins A and C, two nutrients that help protect the immune system. Just 1/2 cup contains 516% DV for vitamin A, 35% for vitamin C, 14% for vitamin B6, 22% for manganese, 11% for potassium, and 4 grams of fiber.
So swap out regular mashed potatoes for sweet mashed potatoes, make sweet potato fries, or roast cubed sweet potatoes in some honey an olive oil for your Sunday dinner .
4. Pecans: This tasty nut typically makes a showing in popular desserts like pecan pie. But why not eat pecans more often in their pure form? After all, pecans contain various phenolic properties that have antioxidant power. Additionally, they have different forms of antioxidant vitamin E, including one called gamma-tocopherols.
Some research shows pecans, like most nuts, benefit heart health. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, the group that ate pecans not only had their blood levels of antioxidants go up, but their (bad) LDL cholesterol went down. Try topping your yogurt or salad with pecans or add them (chopped) to baked goods. They are yummy!
5. Pumpkin: From pumpkin lattes to pumpkin pie, everyone is eating pumpkin this time of year. With its signature orange color, 1/2 cup of pumpkin contains a 382% DV for vitamin A. It also contains 10% DV for iron, 25% for vitamin K, and 3.5g fiber.
I like to stock up on canned pumpkin this time of year so I have it around all year to make pumpkin muffins, homemade pumpkin granola bars, and my favorite –pumpkin French toast.
There are so many nutritious holiday foods that can benefit our health and taste buds year-round. What are your favorites?