The holidays aren’t exactly synonymous with healthy eating. But did you know there are quite a few common holiday foods loaded with health benefits? Focus on incorporating these five healthy foods into your recipes this holiday season for some holiday meals you can feel good about eating.
What are the holidays without a little chocolate?! Rather than using sweetened, processed forms of chocolate in your favorite holiday dessert recipes, sub ground cacao in its place for the ultimate superfood swap. Cacao is derived from the beans of a cacao tree. This is consistent with cocoa powder. However, cacao beans are cold pressed and sold raw, rather than cocoa beans which are roasted and stripped of many of the healthy vitamins and nutrients.
Cold-pressed, unroasted cacao is loaded with antioxidants called flavanols. Eating foods rich in flavanols has been linked to stress reduction, improved cognitive function, lower blood pressure and an improved microbiome. Additionally, cacao is a good source of magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium.
My favorite use for cacao is to make healthy hot chocolate. Similar to unsweetened cocoa powder, cacao powder is bitter so you will want to sweeten your hot chocolate with a dash of sweetener, honey, or your favorite creamer. I love this vanilla superfood creamer by Lairds. I also love this superfood cacao latte mix by Navitas Organics. Perfectly sweetened with only 2 grams of sugar and combined with other superfoods, this is a twist on hot chocolate that you can feel good about drinking every day this holiday season.
While sweet potatoes can easily be enjoyed year-round, I find myself eating sweet potatoes more often during the holidays. So, what makes sweet potatoes a nutritious choice for your holiday recipes? Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium. And, in comparison, sweet potatoes trump russet potatoes in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. So, consider using sweet potatoes in your mashed potato recipe this year. Sweet potato rounds also make a great substitute for a crostini in a lot of appetizer recipes. The extra dose of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants will be a welcome addition to any holiday meal.
Is it really the holidays without pumpkin everything? And fortunately for us, pumpkin is an amazing food packed with so many amazing health benefits. In fact, I dedicated a whole blog post to the benefits of pumpkin and my favorite pumpkin bread recipe. Check out the article here.
But to give you the spark notes, pumpkin in full of antioxidants, immune boosting vitamins and fiber. And, when it comes to incorporating pumpkin into your holiday meals, think beyond just the pie and breads! Pumpkin is the perfect addition to pancakes, soup, pasta sauce, cookies, hummus…the list goes on. And with so many amazing health benefits, it’s worth adding to as many recipes as you can!
I don’t know about you, but we only eat cranberries twice a year in my house, on Thanksgiving and again on Christmas. But did you know cranberries are an antioxidant powerhouse?? They are also effective in fighting against UTIs, and have been linked to improved brain function, healthy skin, a strengthened immune system and stronger teeth. With so many amazing health benefits, cranberries deserve to be a permanent fixture in our diet.
So, what are some ideas to incorporate more cranberries at your holiday dinner table? Aside from the standard cranberry sauce, cranberries are the perfect addition to your holiday cookies or muffins. They also pair well in stuffing, with roasted sweet potatoes or squash, or mash them and serve them over your favorite soft cheese. They are also the perfect garnish to your favorite holiday cocktail. Just saying.
IDK who we need to thank for putting brussels sprouts back on the map, but I can tell you, this was not the vegetable of choice in our parents generation. Shaved and tossed in a vinaigrette. Oven roasted in a balsamic glaze. Air fried with pancetta. However, you prepare them, brussels sprouts are the perfect side dish to any holiday meal.
But aside from their delicious, crispy, flakey texture and flavor, brussels sprouts are also full of nutrients. Most prominently, vitamin K which support healthy blood coagulation and strong teeth and bones. Brussels sprouts are also a good source of fiber and promote healthy digestion. So, if you’re responsible for a side or salad this holiday season, definitely consider making brussels sprouts the star of the show. They are definitely worth the hype!
While I fully believe in indulging in all the decant deliciousness of the holidays, the above ingredients make great additions to holiday dishes while also packing a nutritional punch. I would love to know how you incorporate these ingredients (or others!) into your holiday meals. Please share in the comment section below!
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