Smart Holiday Stuffing

lttle nutbrown hare/flickr

lttle nutbrown hare/flickr

With the change of season often comes a change in our eating and exercise habits – more food and less exercise. Holiday time generally means more traveling, eating and relaxing and less physical activity. By the time New Year’s rolls around, we arm ourselves with resolutions to resume our healthy eating habits and get back in the gym, on the roads and in the pool. But with a little advanced planning you can eat healthfully and stay fit through the holidays and save your New Year’s resolutions for other goals.

The holiday season is a great time to add some superfoods to your diet that are in season and that might not be on your usual menu – though maybe they should be. Read on to learn about some delicious, nutritious must-have choices.

Super Carbs

Replenish glycogen stores depleted by a hard workout with these healthy versions of holiday favorites:

  • Whether you find them at holiday gatherings or prepare them yourself, yams and sweet potatoes are near-perfect foods for athletes – high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. These orange and gold tubers are delicious baked; boiled and mashed with a little bit of orange juice and cinnamon; or sliced, brushed with some olive oil and your favorite herbs and roasted.
  • Winter squash – and there are numerous varieties available including butternut, buttercup, kabocha and more – are equally nutritious and easy to prepare. Just cut one in half, place halves face down on a baking sheet and bake! Winter squash are sweet, nutty and dense and loaded with fiber and vitamins. They are delicious au naturel and don’t need much doctoring with added butter or sweetener.
  • Stuffing – prepare stuffing with a little vegetable oil such as canola oil instead of butter and vegetable or chicken stock. Get creative and mix stuffing base with mushrooms, celery, carrots, your favorite nuts and dried fruit, and try whole grain or corn bread instead of white bread for the base.
  • Wild and whole grain rice – get creative with your rice too. Add nuts, dried fruit, herbs, diced vegetables, even beans, and cook with chicken or vegetable stock for added flavor.
  • Mashed potatoes – mash your favorite potatoes – Idaho’s, red-skinned, yellow-skinned, or any other variety – with the skins still on and use a little less butter and a little more chicken or vegetable stock. Mash white potatoes with parsnips, winter squash or sweet potatoes for added flavor and nutrients.

Get Your Greens

  • Brussels sprouts show up more often around this time of year. These cruciferous nutritional powerhouses are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try them steamed, microwaved, roasted with olive oil, or cut up into stir fries, soups and stews. Broccoli and cauliflower, part of the same cruciferous family, are equally good choices, abundant in the winter and are very versatile. Add herbs and sliced, roasted almonds or your favorite nuts.

Pure Protein

Help repair and rebuild muscle with these lean protein choices:

  • Turkey (without the skin) – is among the best sources of lean protein. White and dark meat parts of the turkey are both nutritious choices – the white meat is a bit leaner, the dark meat a bit higher in iron. When roasting the turkey, baste with broth instead of butter.
  • Other typical holiday fare including roasted chicken, baked ham and lean roast beef are also great sources of protein – just remove the poultry skin from the chicken and visible fat from the meats before eating.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

  • When it comes to baking, you can make your own healthy versions of traditional holiday favorites by substituting apple sauce and/or mashed banana for oil, yogurt for sour cream, egg substitute or egg whites for whole eggs, and evaporated skim milk for cream. And you can make your own healthy pie crusts using crushed graham crackers or ginger snaps. Use these substitutes when preparing pumpkin pie and other pies, chocolate cake, carrot cake, banana bread, cookies and more.
  • Cranberry sauce – try a low-sugar version sweetened with orange juice and fresh oranges, and use whole cranberries for more fiber.
  • Spiced hot apple cider – yummy and satisfying! A great holiday beverage for athletes.

Follow these guidelines to eat, drink and be merry –and healthy! –and you’ll be off to a great start for the New Year! Your body will benefit from the abundant nutrients contained in these foods, which won’t leave you feeling weighed down and unable to perform at your best. Eat well, feel well, and stay active. Happy Holidays!

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