The traditional Christmas dinner is usually high in fat, sugar and calories. However, there are some holiday foods that are truly nutritious and heart-healthy. Choosing lean meats, brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, and whole grains will ensure your family is not only getting a meal that is delicious, but nutritious, too.
Turkey provides a lot of lean protein but contains less than half the amount of saturated fat that is found in beef. It is also a great source of vitamin B6 and niacin, which can enhance energy metabolism, as well as selenium, which strengthens the immune system.
Spiral ham is comparable in calories and fat but has more than 1,000 mg of sodium in 4 ounces.
Cranberries are rich in anthocyanins, a type of phytochemicals that can improve circulation and nerve function, and provides protection against diseases. Also, they can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
You can also sweeten cranberries by making a cranberry sauce with apples or oranges.
Sweet potatoes contain a wide range of nutrients, including beta carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, and dietary fiber. Vitamin A and vitamin C function as antioxidants to combat free radicals that cause damage to cells, therefore, helping to prevent heart disease and cancer.
Yams are another type of food that can promote heart health. They contain high amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, potassium and dietary fiber. Vitamin B6 helps to prevent heart attack and stroke by reducing homocysteine levels in the body, and potassium plays the important role of controlling hypertension — one of the contributing factors to heart disease.
Vegetables are always a great addition to any meal. Also called string beans, green beans are low in calories, and they are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, manganese, potassium, folate, and dietary fiber. They can promote proper blood clotting and bone health, as well as offer protection against cancer and heart disease.
And remember, when you’re preparing holiday foods, you can also use healthy cooking methods. Grilling, roasting, baking, broiling, steaming, press cooking and slow cooking are some of the healthiest ways to cook meat. And yes, you should avoid deep-frying it.
Making simple changes to your holiday dinner menu can be a great first step to eating healthier.
You can find some other great healthy eating tips by downloading our guide: “Eating Healthy On A Busy Schedule.” It’s packed with tips to help you eat better all year long.