LIFE'S BETTER AT THE VILLAGE

Top 5 Healthy Holiday Foods Secretly Good for You

There’s no need to write off all holiday fare as detrimental to your health. Several of the season’s most nostalgic foods are actually considered superfoods! Village dietitian, Jamie Miller, highlights not only which holiday ingredients to reach for, but also provides us with delicious, healthy recipes to enjoy the holiday flavors.

Pecans

While a big, rich slice of pecan pie may not be the healthiest food choice, don’t nix pecans in general! Pecans actually have more antioxidants than any other type of nut. They also are packed with heart healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, magnesium, zinc, folate, and Vitamin E. Pecans also are a good source of ellagic acid which help protect against cancer, DNA damage, inflammation and even wrinkles. The key to enjoying pecans this holiday season is to watch the added sugar that often comes in dishes. Try out these lower sugar pecan pie bars that are filled with fiber and healthy fats from ingredients like almond flour, coconut flour, coconut oil and of course… pecans!

Pecan Pie Bars

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1.5 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Filling

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup granulated monk fruit (or sweetener of choice that measures like sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp almond milk, or milk of choice
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 F and line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper, or grease well with cooking spray or oil. In a small bowl, stir together the almond flour, coconut flour, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt until well combined. Pour into the pan and press into an even layer with your hand or back of a spoon. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden. Let the crust cool completely. 

 

In a medium saucepan, heat the coconut oil, monk fruit, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla until boiling, stirring often. Once boiling, constantly stir and let it boil for two minutes and then turn off heat. Do not cooking longer, or it will burn. Stir in almond milk and pecans. Pour the pecan mixture over the cooled crust and bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes or more at room temperature, and then cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving or cutting. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. 

Pumpkin

Pumpkin stands strong as a favorite holiday food from the beginning of fall to Christmas time. This winter squash deserves this spotlight, not only for its nostalgic flavor, but also its rich source of fiber along with vitamin A, B2, C, E, copper, potassium, and manganese. It also is great for your skin. Pumpkin’s salicylic acid helps to reduce acne, its vitamin A helps minimize acne scars, and its beta carotene helps boost collagen while also decreasing wrinkles & dark spots. Think beyond pumpkin pie and try out this Pumpkin Chicken Curry recipe for a warming dinner idea this holiday season.

Pumpkin Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive or avocado oil, split
  • 2 large chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tbsp freshly minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can light coconut milk
  • 1 (14 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 lb cauliflower florets, cut into small pieces
  • 1 (15 oz.) can low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 1/2 tsp sea salt, split, plus more to taste
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup, sugar, or sweetener of choice (optional), to taste
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • Cooked rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice for serving
  • Cilantro for garlic, option

Instructions​

In a large skillet, heat ½ tbsp of oil. Add chicken pieces and season with ½ tsp salt and ⅛ tsp black pepper. Cook undisturbed until the bottoms are opaque with golden brown patches. Flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Removed from pan and set aside. 

 

Add ½ tbsp oil into the same large skillet over medium-high heat, and saute the onion and bell pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, garlic, and ginger, and stir for 1 more minute, until fragrant. Add in the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir well, then add in the cauliflower and drained chickpeas. 

 

Bring the liquid to a simmer, then lower the heat and cover the pan to let the cauliflower cook until it’s fork tender, 10 to 12 minutes. When the cauliflower is tender, add the lemon juice and sweetener of choice maple syrup, starting with 1 tablespoon. Fold in the fresh spinach, last, if using. It will wilt quickly in the hot curry sauce. Add in the chicken pieces. Taste and adjust salt and maple syrup as needed to your preference. Serve the curry warm, with cooked rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Leftover pumpkin curry will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Cranberries

A holiday plate wouldn’t be complete without cranberry sauce, and your body will thank you for the antioxidant rich addition to the meal. Cranberries contain powerful antioxidants well known for their ability to fight off the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). But they also help reduce the risk of heart disease, fight against breast and lung cancer, and remove toxins in your digestive tract. Cranberries’ high levels of polyphenols and vitamin C also helps support your immune system to avoid catching a cold or flu this season. Usually cranberry sauce contains high amounts of sugar to offset cranberries tart flavor. Try this low sugar recipe that uses orange juice and cinnamon to add natural sweetness and flavor instead.

Cranberry Sauce with Orange & Cinnamon

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries (approx. 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup honey (or monk fruit for a no sugar option)
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated orange zest
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions​

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. As the cranberries cook, they will start to pop. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes until you no longer hear the cranberries popping and it appears the sauce is thickening. Allow to cool and then refrigerate until cool. As the sauce cools, it will thicken more and more. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add more honey to taste, as this recipe makes a slightly tart cranberry sauce.

Ginger

Maybe let’s skip on gingerbread houses covered in icing and candy, but don’t pass up all ginger flavored holiday foods! This spice contains the bioactive compound, gingerol, which is an antibacterial that can help fight oral bacteria, and can even halt the growth of E.coli ,shigella, and viruses like RSV.  Ginger also is well known for calming nausea whether due to motion sickness, pregnancy, or chemotherapy. It helps settle upset stomachs by gingerol’s effect on gastrointestinal motility, which encourages stomach emptying to in turn aid in relieving nausea. Wondering whether to reach for fresh ginger or dried powdered ginger? Both are beneficial! Try out powdered ginger in this nutritious, protein packed gingerbread oatmeal for a satisfying breakfast this holiday season.

Gingerbread Protein Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, or milk of choice
  • 1/2 cup rolled old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • Small pinch of salt

Instructions​

In a pot over medium/high heat, stir together the almond milk, oatmeal, cinnamon and ginger and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the milk is mostly absorbed, but the oats are still a little runny. Turn off the heat, then add the protein powder, molasses, and a small pinch of salt. Serve and enjoy.

Cocoa

Nothing is better than sipping on hot cocoa in front of a fireplace or while looking at Christmas light. And good news is that cocoa is a nutritional powerhouse. Cocoa is rich in polyphenols and powerful antioxidants flavanols that help fight off free radicals, decrease inflammation, can help reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure by improving nitric oxide levels, and even improve depression-related symptoms. The key to keeping cocoa a wise choice is to watch the added sugar. It can be added to protein smoothies, sprinkled over banana slices or strawberries, enjoyed in an extra dark chocolate bar, or used to make a low sugar hot cocoa like this recipe!

50 Calorie Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp monk fruit, or sweetener of choice to taste
  • 1 drop peppermint extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk, or low fat milk

Instructions​

Add all ingredients in a blender, blend, then pour into a mug. Or add all ingredients to a mug and use a hand frother to mix until well incorporated. Heat the hot cocoa in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm.

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