Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Healthy Holiday Foods of the Season

As seen on Channel 7 KMGH
Recipes posted under "Recipes" section
December 21, 2010

Be nice instead of naughty and concentrate on the healthful foods of this holiday season. Naughtiness doesn’t always have to doom you to those extra pounds. But unabashedly indulging in the seasonal treats from now until those resolutions kick in may mean facing an exclusively elastic-waistband wardrobe in the New Year.

How much weight does the average person gain each holiday season?
• The good news is that it is an urban myth that we gain a traditional 5-7 pounds every holiday season. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) it is actually closer to only one or two pounds.
• The bad news - we seldom ever lose those pounds, adding to the weight season after season.
• And for people already overweight, the gain is an average 5 or more pounds each holiday.

So should we stay away from all those tempting holiday foods?
• Absolutely not. An outright ban of a favorite holiday food simply intensifies craving for it.
• Try eating a very small amount of the item, be it Christmas cookies or candy, and then get it out of the house. Take it to work for your co-workers to share and enjoy.
• I’m here to talk about what to add to your diet rather than what to take away. There are plenty of good-for-you foods lurking in between the calorie bombs.
• Portion control the high calories foods and find ways to enjoy the healthier foods of the season.

Examples of holiday foods that will add both enjoyment and good nutrition.
• Pomegranates are at their peak during the holidays. Their rich red color and tart flavor can add a lot to hot soups, cold salads and beverages.
• They are high in vitamin C, fiber and potassium
• You can sprinkle on a salad or use to make a granite as a nice counterpoint to the heavier dishes on you menu.

Can chocolate actually be a part of healthy holiday food?
• Yes, this sweet treat in moderation is connected with many health benefits.
• Clinical studies show that eating small amounts of chocolate each day- about 30 calories' worth-helps lower blood pressure that in turn may reduce your risk of stroke or coronary heart disease.
• Several long-term studies have found the benefits in dark chocolate may contain at least 70 percent cocoa solids, which contain higher levels of the antioxidant flavonoids responsible for its heath benefits.
• Caution: Chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense foods, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable.

Of course cranberries are popular during Thanksgiving. Ideas for its appearance on the Christmas table as well. Why are they good for you, and are canned cranberries as healthy as the raw?
• Cranberries are low in calories and rich in fiber, and potassium, which makes them a perfect part of a healthy diet. These holiday colored berries contain unique compounds with antibacterial properties that may help prevent urinary tract infections.
• Cranberries are among the berries that are the richest in antioxidants, believed to fight the free radicals which damage cell structures, help the immune system and possibly ward off potential cancer cells from forming.
• Fresh cranberries the highest levels of beneficial nutrients, but most people will not eat because of the sourness. Dried cranberries and cranberry sauce are the next highest source of nutrients.

Cocktails, mixed drinks, eggnog and other holiday drinks can quickly add up in calories. Suggestions to celebrate with holiday spirits that are better for you.
• Good alternatives for celebrations can include sparkling or hot apple cider, light eggnog or seltzer mixed with fruit juices.
• If you’re going to drink, wine is the most calorie-friendly selection with approximately 20 calories per ounce.
• Of the wines, studies have shown that that certain components in red wine, resveratrol and polyphenols, might play an important role in preventing damage to blood vessels, reducing bad cholesterol, preventing blood clots, improving blood flow, and inhibiting the development of certain cancers.
• Add a cinnamon stick to stir hot mulled wine. Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant capacity of any spice. Sprinkle extra cinnamon on those holiday dishes and cocktails this year.

These foods are at their peak popularity from October through December, just in time to add to the festivities of the season, and flavor and numerous health protective effects to your holiday meals.