It seems like the majority of my patients are watching their diets to lose weight or stay healthy. But the endless round of high-calorie unhealthy foods during the holidays often throws a wrench in the works, even for those with willpower of steel.
With a little effort and forethought, you can enjoy the traditions of the season while staying healthy and not tipping the scales. I like to recommend the following healthy holiday super foods.
This perennial holiday favorite is a great source of low-fat protein and packs plenty of folic acid, B vitamins, zinc and potassium – helpful to guard against heart disease and cancer, keep cholesterol low and boost your immune system. But play it smart: Choose turkey breast, peel off the skin, steer clear of gravy and spoon on just a smidgen of stuffing.
These jewel-toned berries are loaded with antioxidants including vitamins C and E, and their high-fiber level may help lower cholesterol. They’re known to help prevent urinary tract infections and may reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Ready-made cranberry sauce is loaded with sugar. I like to make my own by simmering fresh cranberries with enough orange juice to cover and just a pinch of sugar. It’s ready when the berries pop.
Actually a winter squash, pumpkin is packed with vitamins C and A, potassium and beta-carotene, which is beneficial to eyes and may help prevent cancer and hardening of the arteries. Pumpkin pie may not be a health food, but if you halve the sugar and add a little extra of the healthful spices nutmeg and cinnamon, the downside is minimized.
This richly colored veggie has lots of betacarotene, antioxidants, potassium and fiber. It is naturally sweet, so you don’t need to pile on sugar and butter. Roasting retains nutrients as well as the flavor. To make sweet potatoes even healthier, add cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle with nuts.
A few more tips
I hope it goes without saying that moderation is key in holiday eating, as in all things.
Watch portion size and beware of added sugar and fat. You may want to bring your own healthy creations to get-togethers.
And when the dishes are cleared away, I like to burn off a few calories with a walk instead of plopping down to watch TV.
What are your tips for staying healthy during the holidays? Have any favorite recipes you’d like to share?
Dr. Benafsha Irani is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Clear Lake. Her interests include adult medicine, children’s health, women’s health and preventive medicine.