Holidays are a time when most people let down their guard a bit and have a sliver of pecan pie and a bowl of hot mashed potatoes and gravy. Although many of the classic holiday foods are high in calories, there are some surprising superfoods just waiting to be added to your holiday shopping list. These foods epitomize the season but won’t add blubber to your tummy. So, when you celebrate the holidays this year, make room for this 5 nutritional superstars on your holiday plate.
Don’t toss the insides of those ghoulish pumpkins that smile so eerily on Halloween. Pumpkin is the perfect addition to the Thanksgiving dinner table. How so? Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin A derivatives called carotenoids that lower the risk for eye diseases like cataracts and another common eye disease, age-related macular degeneration. In addition, carotenoids are heart healthy and have anti-inflammatory properties. Not to mention, they add color to your dinner plate.
How can you tap into the nutritional benefits of pumpkin? Why not skip the mashed potatoes and serve mashed pumpkin this Thanksgiving? Creamy, mashed pumpkin tastes delicious with a hint of pepper, garlic, and parmesan and this dish has more nutritional power than mashed potatoes. For a creamy texture, add your favorite milk or milk alternative. With this colorful side dish, you won’t miss the mashed potatoes.
Although pumpkin pie isn’t the healthiest way to get your carotenoids due to the added sugar, a piece of pumpkin pie is far lower in sugar and calories than another holiday favorite, pecan pie. So when you splurge on dessert, make it a slice of pumpkin pie. For extra points, leave behind the crust.
Although fresh pumpkins are hard to come by after the holidays, you can buy canned, pureed pumpkin at most supermarkets any time of year. Look for pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix. The latter contains added sugar. Use it to whip up a healthy pudding or soup and to add to hot cereal for a burst of flavor and nutrients.
Speaking of “mashed,” sweet potatoes offer many of the same benefits as pumpkin, being a good source of carotenoid, and like pumpkin, they’re a healthier substitute for mashed potatoes. Here’s another side dish option: Broil sweet potatoes for 10 to 12 minutes on medium-high heat. Then add a touch of sour cream and sprinkle with chives. Baked sweet potatoes are another tasty side that works, not just for Thanksgiving, but any time of year. Just don’t put the sweet potatoes aside after the holidays. Serve them anytime – they’re too packed with nutrition not to.
Tart, tangy, and bursting with color, cranberries are a perennial favorite at Thanksgiving, and cranberries earn extra points for the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds they contain. In addition, cranberries are linked with a lower risk for urinary tract infections. The problem is most packaged cranberry sauce and cranberry juice have lots of added sugar. You can enjoy the benefits, without all the sugar, by making your own cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries and sweetening with a natural sweetener like Stevia. Here’s how:
Place 4 cups of fresh cranberries in a saucepan. Cook them under high heat until the cranberries burst. Lower the heat and let the cranberries simmer. Then stir in 2 tablespoons of orange zest and ½ cup Steviva blend powder. Cook for an additional 15 minutes and let the mixture cool before serving. (from Steviva website)
Brussels sprouts pack a powerful anti-cancer punch. How could they not? They’re in the cruciferous vegetable family, a family filled with anti-cancer superstars like broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, arugula and more. In one small study, men who ate a half-cup of Brussels sprouts daily for 5 weeks experienced less DNA damage – a positive if you’re concerned about your cancer risk. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber and vitamin C. At only 30 calories per half-cup, they’re a low-calorie side dish.
How can you bring out the flavor or Brussels sprouts? Roast them in the oven to enhance their natural sweetness and mask any bitter flavors. Experiment by dressing them up with mustard sauce or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. You can also saute Brussels sprouts in olive oil to bring out their flavor. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, lemon juice, and pepper.
For many people, turkey is the main dish on Thanksgiving and a surprisingly healthy one. It’s one of the leanest meats around, especially if you choose white meat. A 3.5 ounce of turkey breast without the skin has only 160 calories, 4 grams of fat and a healthy 30 grams of protein to fill you up and keep you satisfied. Although turkey is a waistline-friendly food, lighten up on the fat and carb-laden accouterments like fatty gravy and dressing.
Like other holiday superfoods, make turkey a part of your everyday diet. It’s a low-calorie, low-fat source of protein to fuel strength training workouts and help you build lean body mass. Combine turkey with a side of sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts and you have an anytime, superfood dinner. Enjoy!
Steviva Recipes. “Super Quick and No Added Sugar Cranberry Sauce”
Carcinogenesis. 1995 Apr;16(4):969-70.
World’s Healthiest Foods website.