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Navigating Nutrition During the Holiday

Navigating nutrition can be challenging during the holiday season. There are a variety of holiday traditions involving seasonal platters and holiday family recipes. During this time, many of us often worry about weight gain, health, and the leftovers that we have in our refrigerators after the holidays - which could be overwhelming. However, no need to fear! There are many ways to navigate healthy and good nutrition during this time without sacrificing your platters and family recipes' flavor.

You can use the following tips during the holiday season to continue or make new family traditions:

Use different fat sources instead of butter or margarine. Choosing the right fat source can make a huge difference in your health. For example, good fats can decrease total cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in the artery walls. Bad fats can be detrimental as it increases total cholesterol causing injury to the artery and promoting plaque-increasing risk for heart and liver disease. Examples of good fat sources are avocados, fish and fish oil, nuts, peanut or almond butter, olive oils, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, canola oil. Examples of bad fat sources are red meats, butter, margarine, vegetable shortening, lard, whole milk, cheeses and creams, pastries, and bacon. Unhealthy fats contribute to fatty liver disease and heart disease.

Boosting food with healthy condiments. Instead of relying on mayonnaise and other unhealthy condiment choices, try including the mustard family, bean dips, relish, and even avocado dips.

There is no need to rely on salt. Look into that spice rack to light and dash up traditional recipes.

Many traditional herbs and spices not only enhance the flavor but also provide numerous health benefits. You can use garlic, onion or garlic powders, thyme, cilantro, oregano, peppers such as black, white, or cayenne, cinnamon, curry powder, nutmeg, chili seasoning, rosemary, turmeric, curcumin, clove, cardamom, paprika, matcha, chives, clove, and basil. My personal favorite is oil infusion by mixing olive oil with two different herbs and spices from the above list.

Grill or roast vegetables on skewer kabobs seasoned with natural herbs and spices.

Caramelize onions.

Caramelizing onions brings out the sweet and savory flavor onto the food.

Incorporate seasonal and fresh produce such as sweet potatoes and winter squash.

Other vegetables that you can grill or steam can also add to the delicious flavors of meals, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and various peppers and apples.

Choose healthy grains instead of refined grains.

Choosing the right grain source does make a difference in your health and the taste of your platter. Healthy grains are nutrient-rich, meaning they contain nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which may lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The difference between a whole vs. refined grain is that whole grains consist of an outer layer called the bran, a middle later called endosperm, and an inner layer (the core of the grain). The outer layer is where fiber is found that helps to protect the seed and contains B vitamins. Fiber offers numerous other benefits such as improved bowel movements, cholesterol, and sugar levels, thus offering a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The middle later consists of healthy carbohydrates. The core of the grain contains other vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals, all of which help prevent disease.

Whole grain sources include oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, quinoa, 100% whole grain bread and cereal, 100% whole grain pasta, whole-grain barley, whole grain sorghum, bulgur, buckwheat, and malt-o-meal. It's important to remember that not every whole grain is deemed healthy, be sure to read the nutrition label and the food source is 100% whole grain. You can consume healthy grains in various forms, such as salads, soups, and sandwiches.

Your family, body, and health will thank you for adding these nutritional values to your holiday recipes and meals. Happy Holidays!

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