Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Eating Tips, Part 2

The holidays are nearly upon us, and we know what that means: lots of not-so-healthy food choices. Instead of the usual healthy holiday eating tips — don’t skip meals, eat slowly, limit your portions, take the focus off food — let’s focus on the good foods that are a part of most holiday dinners that we can enjoy without remorse. (Of course, some may require a few minor alterations.)

What’s a Thanksgiving dinner without turkey? Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, if you pass on the skin. Instead of basting the bird with oil or butter, just spray it with pan spray. Or, cook it in a brown paper bag to keep it nice and moist without all the fat.

Sweet Potatoes.
A nutrition superstar! Loaded with antioxidants, like vitamin C and beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of potassium. Eat the skins and you’ll get lots of fiber, too. Keep this delectable vegetable simple; just bake fresh sweet potatoes and serve. Try to avoid the usual over-processed, too sweet, high-fat sweet potato casserole made with canned sweet potatoes and marshmallow topping.

Mashed Potatoes.
I know what you’re thinking: mashed potatoes don’t fall into the healthy food list. But, they can. Potatoes are fat-free; have more potassium than bananas; are high in C and B vitamins; and they are high in fiber when you leave the skin on. Potatoes get a bad name from the stuff (butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon, etc.) that we typically top them with. Try making skin-on mashed potatoes. Scrub potatoes and dice in ¼ to ½ inch pieces. Cook until tender. Drain well and mash with reduced sodium chicken broth, instead of milk and butter. Or, use low-fat milk and just a small amount of butter. Season to taste.

Green Beans.
Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin C. They also are a good source of vitamin A, fiber, potassium and folate. Try them steamed and sprinkled with slivered almonds. If you must have the green bean casserole, make it with lower fat versions of the typical ingredients.

Brussels Sprouts.
Perhaps they are not on everyone’s holiday table, but they should be. Brussels sprouts are a nutrition powerhouse, containing anticancer phytochemicals, as well as being an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fiber. My favorite way to fix them is to simply drizzle them with olive oil and roast in a hot oven until tender. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and you’re done.

Cranberries are packed with vitamin C and have a fair amount of fiber. They also contain antioxidants that can help prevent urinary tract infections. Ditch the canned sauce, though. This is often high in sugar. Instead, cook your own berries and grind or chop them along with other fruit to make a refreshingly sweet-tart salad.

Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A and fiber. Pumpkin by itself is a low-calorie food. Too often, though, the only way we eat it is to mix it with eggs, sugar and evaporated milk and bake it in a pie. You can lighten up your pie recipe by using skim evaporated milk, cutting the sugar by 1/3 to ½ cup, and using a graham cracker or low-fat crust. Keep the whipped cream topping to a small amount or skip it. Keep canned pumpkin on hand all year and use it to make low-fat muffins. Just mix a cake or brownie mix (any flavor) with a can of pumpkin. Nothing else. Mix well and bake as muffins. You can add spices, nuts or fruit, if desired.

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