The holiday season from October through February provides some of the most indulgent meals, sweets, and beverages of the whole year. From chocolates and pumpkin desserts in October, to Thanksgiving sides and desserts in November, Christmas desserts and fried Hanukkah dishes, and the ever abundant chocolate and cupcakes for Valentine’s Day in February, we just can’t escape all the tasty goodness! Despite the fact that most of these dishes are a slight step away or more from a nutritional meal, there are some hidden nutritional gems in holiday fare.
It’s important to fill your plates with filling whole foods this time of year. They help calm the body, balance cravings, provide cellular support, and your overall health.
Here are five of the best holiday foods that serve your whole body well:
Cranberries are some of the most overlooked berries out there when considering nutritional benefits. They’re almost sugar-free with only 2 grams per 1/2 cup. This means they’re low on the glycemic index to support your blood sugar, and are less likely to cause some digestive upsets in those sensitive to more sugary fruits. Cranberries are also rich in detoxification properties for the blood, kidneys, arteries, and digestive system. They help fight infections, lower stress due to high amounts of Vitamin C, and provide the body with a balanced palate with their tart flavor. Add frozen or fresh whole cranberries to salads, oatmeal or quinoa for breakfast, juices, smoothies, and even smash them with some raw almond butter or tahini to make a tasty sandwich spread. Avoid dried cranberries that are coated in sugar and oil, and cranberry sauces that contain added sugars.
2. Wild Rice
Wild rice is technically a grass, not a grain. It’s very easy to digest, rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, and even contains protein. It’s also rich in antioxidants that support aging, weight maintenance, and heart health. Wild rice is deliciously sweet and nutty with a better flavor than blander rices like brown or white rice. Enjoy it with some roasted squash, sliced almonds, and even cranberries for a delicious holiday meal! Choose 100 percent wild rice, not wild rice blends
This overlooked holiday delight is one of the best sources of Vitamin C you can eat. Chestnuts contain 20 percent of your daily needs of the crucial vitamin per serving, along with 5 grams of fiber and even a little protein to boot. Buy them organic and roasted in small bags at the health food store or online so you can prevent mold exposure and be sure to store them in the fridge well-sealed after you open them. Chestnuts act more like a bean and legume in the body than a nut. They’re also easy to digest and completely fat-free. For something delicious and different, try Chestnut Soup. Or, toss them over oatmeal and salads for sweetness, use them in vegan stuffing to add lots of flavor, puree with butternut squash to make a healthier mashed potato recipe, or mix them into wild rice with kale, sliced almonds, and roasted sweet potatoes for a sweet, satisfying healthy meal.
Kale’s a superfood all year round – there’s no arguing that! Rich in magnesium, protein, iron, calcium, Vitamins A, C, and K, this super green is abundant in the cooler months when it’s fresh and in season. It glows a bit brighter, tastes a bit better, and is likely more expensive for this reason. Enjoy kale raw, sauteed, stuffed into squash, added to stuffing, made into a huge massive wintery salad, and be sure to toss it in your smoothies for extra assurance. Tossed with tahini, lemon juice, Himalayan pink sea salt, and black pepper, kale is life changing; get to know it and experience culinary and nutritional bliss!
5. Orange Root Veggies
Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and all winter squashes are some of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat. In fact, they’ve been shown to prevent cancer, extend aging, and improve the mood. Lucky for us, these fiber-rich veggies also support digestion, improve our skin, hearts, and yes, our meals too. Fresh in season, they’re all easy to work into your diet during the chillier months. Make stew, Sweet Potato Pumpkin Soup, roasted butternut squash, pumpkin smoothies, and even pumpkin truffles. Winter soup is perfect with some sweet carrots added, and no curried dish is complete without their culinary magic.
The holidays don’t have to be a time for food comas and unhealthy fare. Enjoy more of these tasty foods to keep you full, healthy, and inspired in the kitchen all season long.
What’s your favorite healthy holiday meal?
Image Source: Stacy Spensley/Flickr