Nice Foods (Best Choices)
Turkey has long been a staple in our American holidays. It turns out that it is a great choice over and over again. Turkey has been shown to keep post-meal insulin levels in a desirable range. Choose skinless, white meat vs. dark—white meat has less saturated fat than the darker pieces.
Be sure to find out how your turkey was fed before you choose to eat him this season. When turkeys consumed a feed that included some coconut oil, their risk for salmonella infection decreased. Choose certified organic, pasture-raised turkey. This will ensure your safety from unwanted contaminants and ensure that you have a healthy turkey rich in omega-3 fats.
Sweet Potatoes: They taste like dessert and are a nutritional powerhouse, too. Sweet potatoes are known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood-sugar regulating abilities. In some studies, sweet potatoes have been shown to be a more bioavailable source of beta-carotene than green leafy vegetables. The phytonutrients found in these potatoes may also lower the potential risk of heavy metal toxicity, and decrease free radical damage.
Cranberries: Stories say that our Native Americans shared cranberries with the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving. Cranberries are best eaten raw in order to absorb the greatest amount of vitamin C and fiber. Cranberries have compounds that aide digestion. Recent research shows that cranberries may be able to help optimize the balance of beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract.
Pomegranate: The powerhouse compounds found pomegranates are called punicalagins. Punicalagins are responsible for the pomegranate's antioxidant and heart healthy benefits. They help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Not only are pomegranates good for your heart, but some studies show that their compounds may help to inhibit breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and leukemia.
Pumpkin: Pumpkin is overlooked so often as a great source of fiber. Pumpkin's beta carotene, along with vitamins A, C and E and zinc make it a great choice for those who are looking for healthy, glowing skin. The seeds themselves, called pepitas, are actually a very rich source of protein. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 7 grams of protein (just as much as an egg). The pumpkin oil is a very good source of phytosterols which can help to reduce cholesterol levels.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon has a long history as a spice and as a medicine. Cinnamon not only improves the body's ability to utilize blood sugar, but just smelling this sweet spice can boosts brain activity and keep you alert.
Hot Cocoa: Studies show that eating small amounts of chocolate, 1 ounce daily lowered systolic blood pressure. Always choose dark chocolate containing at least 70 percent pure cocoa. These contain higher levels of flavonoids which are responsible for a healthy heart.
Naughty Foods (Think Twice)
Stuffing: One of the most traditional holiday recipes. During the holidays people always try to recreate the magic and the specialness that they experienced when they were children. When it comes to stuffing everyone argues whose recipe is tops. Stuffing doesn't always have to be filled with fats and white, stale breads. This season try a stuffing made with wild rice, quinoa or sweet potato. Add fruits, and try substituting turkey sausage for pork.
Eggnog: An 8-ounce serving can easily exceed 250 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat. Wouldn't you rather have dessert? Research shows that people don't register calories from beverages the same way they do calories from food. If you aren't ready to forgo this tradition just yet, then try substituting skim milk for whole and use more egg whites than yolks.
Gingerbread Cookies: Ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of GI distress. Nutritionists recommend adding ginger to foods or beverages often as a way to ease irritated bellies and eliminate gas. Gingerbread cookies on the other hand can be packed with sugar and excess calories. To make them healthier try to substitute some whole wheat flour and add a little apple juice and black strap molasses in place of sugar.
Fruitcake: The name is deceiving. Traditionally this sweet dessert is full of sugars and butter. The oldest references to fruitcake date back to Roman times, when the recipe included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins mixed into barley mash. Try to keep your recipes close to the original. Choose high quality, sulfite free, organic dried and candied fruit as well as conservative amounts of raw, unsalted nuts.
Flavored Popcorn: Choose plain, air popped popcorn. Three cups contains approximately 100 calories and is full of fiber. Researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania ran a lab analysis on the nutritional content of popcorn and found that the crunchy hull is rich in polyphenols. These antioxidants are concentrated in the hulls because plain popcorn is 100 percent unprocessed, whole grain.
Keep in mind that spending time and making memories is what the holidays are all about. Try to enjoy the experiences rather than just the food itself.
Keep the holiday weight off. Sign up a winter race.