Between all the cookies and cocktails, it can seem like holiday food is out to get you (or at least your waistline). But let’s take a moment to celebrate all of the festive ingredients and dishes that are actually good for you.
Break out the nutcracker and get cracking on some fresh, whole almonds, walnuts, filberts and other nuts. They’re a great source of protein, healthy fats, fiber and some vitamins and minerals. Plus, if you take time to shell them you’ll be less likely to overdo it on these calorie-rich snacks.
As we mentioned last week, pomegranates are one of the healthiest festive foods around. These garnet jewels are filled with heart-healthy compounds, including fiber and flavanols.
Whether or not you eat other nuts year round, chestnuts are a true holiday specialty. They also have a wildly different nutrition profile from most other nuts. Ounce for ounce, they’re much lower in calories (a single ounce or 3 kernels have 70 calories), and also are a good source of vitamin C. You can go the classic route and roast them over an open fire, but you can also use pre-cooked chestnuts in soups, like this Zuppa Di Castagne.
Oranges shine a ray of sunshine in the darkest winter days. A single orange gives you a day’s worth of vitamin C and gives you a good amount of folate and fiber. Try thinly slicing oranges and fennel and drizzling with olive oil and salt for a healthy, brightly flavored appetizer.
Cinnamon, spice and everything nice. Spices offer antioxidants and other phytochemicals that may offer some protection against chronic diseases. Plus, they help you flavor dishes without fat, sugar and salt.
Stuffed mushrooms can be a healthy holiday appetizer. Mushrooms offer a meaty texture and flavor for virtually no calories. Add olive oil, fresh herbs, a sharp cheese and some breadcrumbs and you have a festive app that’s pretty healthy.
While you have the oven cranked high for slow-roasting meat, roast vegetables—the high heat tempers the natural bitterness of Brussels sprouts and enhances the sweetness of sweet potatoes, celeriac and potatoes. Try Ellie Krieger’s recipe for Jewel Roasted Vegetables.
While overdoing it on any kind of alcohol isn’t good for your health, researchers in the UK suggest that two to three glasses of bubbly per week may actually enhance your memory. They attribute the benefits to phenolic acid, a compound found in the grapes used to make champagne. Cheers to that!