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7 Healthy Foods To Include In Your Holiday Meals

daughter helping father prepare thanksgiving food

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Key Takeaways

  • You can easily give your holiday meals a nutritious boost without having to miss out on your favorite traditions.
  • Many ingredients can be swapped out for healthier options. For example, use pure maple syrup instead of sugar.

For many families, the holiday season brings decadent meals, sweets, and drinks. Taking time to celebrate can also mean less time for workouts, adequate sleep, and de-stressing.

You can still enjoy the holiday season without giving up on your wellness habits. For starters, there are some simple ways to give timeless holiday meals a nutritious boost. Consider incorporating these seven foods into your holiday meal.

Pure Maple Syrup from Canada

If you're craving sugar over the holidays, using 100% pure maple syrup from Canada will give your dishes sweet flavor along with some other unique benefits.  

Most sweeteners don’t have much nutrition, but pure maple syrup offers several key nutrients. Manganese, for example, plays an important role in the metabolism of glucose and fat in the body.

A 30 mL (2 tbsp) serving of 100% pure maple syrup from Canada provides 35% of the recommended daily value of manganese. 

Pure maple syrup from Canada is also a good source of riboflavin and has calcium, thiamin, potassium, and copper, as well as over 67 different plant compounds called polyphenols.

Nine of these compounds are unique to pure maple syrup. One of them, Quebecol, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

You can use the syrup as a replacement for sweeteners in a variety of desserts and baked goods, including pies and cakes. It also works well as an ingredient in salad dressings and marinades. Just be sure to grab the pure stuff that comes from the maple tree!

Pistachios

If you're thinking about weight maintenance this holiday season, have a stash of pistachios on hand. Noshing on the little green nuts has been linked to eating fewer sweets, increased fiber intake, and a healthier overall diet.

Cracking open in-the-shell pistachios can help slow you down your snacking, and the empty shells can be a visual cue that encourages you to eat mindfully.

Pistachios are also a source of plant-based protein, vitamin E, and a slew of other beneficial nutrients. Plus, nearly 90% of the fats found in pistachios are the better-for-you mono and polyunsaturated kind. This makes for a protein-fiber-fat trio that helps you feel fuller longer.

Whether stirred into your oats at breakfast, grabbed as a quick snack, chopped up for a crunchy casserole topping, or sprinkled on dessert, pistachios are a nutritious addition to just about any holiday meal.

Mushrooms

Thanks to a fiber naturally found in mushrooms called beta-glucans, the fabulous fungi can improve cholesterol levels. It can also help regulate blood sugar. Mushrooms are also a natural source of important nutrients like riboflavin, niacin, and in some cases, vitamin D.

Make a mushroom blend for a tasty and satisfying way to benefit from all of the goodness the fungi have to offer.

The fungi are easily added to many dishes, especially if you blend them. For example, if you are making meatballs, meatloaf, or have another recipe using ground beef, you can use a mushroom blend (half ground beef and half chopped mushrooms) instead of 100% beef.

100% Orange Juice

Not only can you drink it with breakfast, but you can use 100% OJ in dressings, sauces, and even cocktails. Using 100% fruit juice instead of the varieties that are packed with added sugars is a simple swap that adds nutrients like vitamin C and folate to your dishes.

100% orange juice contains natural antioxidants like hesperidin, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.

Orange juice is also a great drink to give kids instead of punch, soda, and other sweet beverages. Research on more than 7,000 children and adolescents found that drinking 100% orange juice had no effect on body weight.

Pears

This fruit's harvest often begins in the fall, making it a perfect addition to your holiday plate. Pears are full of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C. You can serve them on a cheese board, bake them into a dessert, or even slice them up for a salad.

Be sure to eat the peel, as that is where most of a pear's nutrients are.

Cranberries

Not many fruits scream “holiday season” the way cranberries do. Between the naturally festive color and the unique flavor, cranberries are a perfect addition to a wintertime meal. 

As long as you aren’t combining them with added sugars, the tart berry can be a nutritious addition to a holiday dish. Since it is naturally loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and copper, go ahead and heap it on your plate.

Cranberries contain a phytonutrient called A-type proanthocyanidins, which plays a role in preventing E. Coli bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract, which could help reduce the risk of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Salmon

Holiday meals don’t have to rely on traditional turkey and ham. While you might not think of fish when you think of a festive meal, salmon can be the shining star of the season—or any time of the year.

For a responsibly-raised and mercury-free option, look for farmed salmon from Chile.

The fish is a rich source of vitamin D, which you need for strong bones. Salmon is also packed with omega-3 fatty acids to boost your immune health, which is often top of mind during cold and flu season. 

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