We all know New Year's resolutions exist for one reason, really: to make us feel better for the way we eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and the week after, for that matter).
It seems that during the holidays, we tend to justify our eating habits a little more than during the rest of the year. And maybe that's OK; food is a great unifier, and the holidays are the perfect time to celebrate life with family and friends.
But the question can still linger: Is there any way to eat better during the holidays?
The good news is, yes. Not everything that tastes good has to be bad for you, despite what naysayers claim.
In this article, we'll take a look at 10 tasty holiday favorites packed with vitamins and minerals. These are comfort foods you can take comfort in eating. While you won't see any cakes and cookies make the list, you may be surprised by what delectable treats you'll find.
10: Cranberry Sauce
First up is a dish that no Thanksgiving meal should go without: cranberry sauce. This side dish is a must for most holiday-meal spreads. What other food shaped like the inside of a tin can is so appealing?
A little sweet, a little tart, and this holiday fare is actually pretty good for you, too. For an even healthier version, consider making your own with less sugar (though, it won't be shaped like a perfect cylinder).
Cranberries, a fruit native to North America, have a host of health benefits. One cup (237 grams) contains 20 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, the immune-boosting, heart-healthy vitamin. There's also 65 milligrams of potassium per serving [source: Cranberry Institute].
And as you'll see on the next page, our list of tasty holiday foods includes more of nature's sweet treats.
9: Baked Apples
The first "dessert" on our list of vitamin-packed holiday foods, baked apples deserves a spot on any fall menu. If "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," just imagine what good a few of them can do when baked in the oven by themselves or in a pie.
Though most people think of citrus fruits when it comes to vitamin C, those aren't the only source of this important vitamin. Apples are full of vitamin C, with more than 1,500 milligrams in a small fruit [source: Pemberton].
In addition, they're a great source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, with one large apple containing about 6 grams, or 30 percent of the daily recommended intake. Just make sure to leave the skin on, as it has most of the nutrients and fiber content [source: SuperFoodsRX].
Next up is a vegetable you may need to give another chance.
8: Brussels Sprouts
OK, maybe we should start this one by calling a truce.
You may remember Brussels sprouts as those bitter little cabbages your mom forced you to eat. And you may not have forgiven her. But let's move on: You're an adult now, and many of the foods you tried back then deserve a second chance.
First off, they really are delicious. Brussels sprouts only turn bitter when they're over-cooked, so try boiling or sautéing them in butter for just a few minutes. Plentiful in the fall and winter, this vegetable pops up in a lot of holiday meals where the cook is looking for something green to add.
But why are they on this list? For many, many reasons! Brussels sprouts are packed with vitamin K (147 percent recommended daily amount), which is good for your bones; they also have 142 percent of your RDA of vitamin C; and throw in B vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. As if that's not enough, this little vegetable has 3.8 grams of protein per serving [source: Nutrition and You].
So the next holiday spread you see where people are avoiding the sprouts, you'll know better and dig in. Which is good, because our next dish could get gobbled up quickly.
7: Pumpkin Pie
Yes, you read that headline correctly. I said pumpkin pie.
Wait, can pumpkin pie seriously be good for you? It is a pie after all; pie is so sweet and delicious that it has to be bad for you, right?
Pumpkin, a variety of winter squash, has a number of health-boosting benefits. First off, it's loaded with vitamin A, providing 246 percent of the recommended daily amount per serving [source: Nutrition and You].
On top of that, pumpkin is rich in B vitamins like folate, niacin and thiamin; it's also a good source of minerals like calcium, potassium, copper and phosphorus. And if all the vitamins and minerals aren't enough to persuade you, pumpkin is a low-calorie food that's high in dietary fiber [source: Nutrition and You].
So there. Eat a second helping of your aunt's pumpkin pie and feel great about yourself. And if the pie runs out, you can always dig into our next tasty treat.
6: Sweet Potato Soufflé
Following pumpkin pie is another naturally sweet treat often consumed during the holidays: sweet potatoes. Usually baked as a soufflé, this dish is topped with marshmallows for over-the-top sweetness.
No, the marshmallows don't have any redeeming health qualities. But the sweet potatoes themselves do.
These root vegetables are high in vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy skin, a strong immune system and good vision. One serving of sweet potatoes has about twice the daily recommended amount of vitamin A. They're also high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B-6, iron and potassium [source: Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission].
And, like pumpkin, sweet potatoes are a high-fiber, low-calorie food, so you can feel good about eating this tasty treat.
For something even sweeter, see the next vitamin-packed holiday treat.
5: Oven-poached Pears
Another fruit that joins our lineup, colorful pears are sometimes seen in a holiday tabletop display. But even with their beauty, pears are best served as a naturally sweet addition to your holiday recipes.
Like apples, pears are jam-packed with vitamin C. Unlike vitamins found in supplements, vitamin C from fruits and vegetables is thought to reduce the risk of certain cancers of the mouth and breasts [source: MedLine Plus].
Also, pears are a terrific source of potassium. One medium pear contains about 190 milligrams of this mineral, necessary for a healthy heart, muscles, nervous system and more [source: Pear Bureau Northwest].
Many of the items on our list boast high fiber, and pears are no exception; they have the highest amount of fiber among common fruits. One large pear contains 5 grams of fiber, three of which are soluble fiber [source: Tufts University].
Next we'll look at a close cousin of the pumpkin, another fall and winter favorite.
4: Butternut Squash
In the world of Southern chefs like Paula Deen, butter makes everything better. So how about a vegetable with butter in its name?
The butternut squash is a type of winter squash, heartier with a thicker rind than its summer cousin. And while winter squash comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, butternut squash is the most common, likely because of its flavor and versatility [source: The Cook's Thesaurus].
Butternut squash has more vitamin A than pumpkin, which is saying a lot. One serving has 354 percent of your daily recommended amount, more than enough to maintain healthy vision and skin. It's also loaded with B vitamins like folates, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B-6 [source: Nutrition and You].
Sure they're healthy, but butternut squash also live up to their name. The yellowish orange interior flesh has a creamy, earthy taste, and tastes great when roasted or pureed into a winter soup.
3: Carrot Soufflé
Soufflé casseroles seem to be popular dishes around the holidays, maybe because they're hot and sharable, or maybe just because they taste good. And as we've seen with some of the other items on our list of tasty holiday foods with vitamins, not everything that tastes great is bad for your health.
Add carrots to the list of veggies you can serve in a soufflé.
According to health experts, carrots are just really, really good for you. And for a lot of reasons, too.
For instance, one 10-year study on the effects of vegetables on cardiovascular disease found that orange/yellow vegetables, in particular carrots, had a highly noticeable effect on reducing risk of the disease [source: World's Healthiest Foods].
A single serving of carrots provides 407 percent RDA of vitamin A. In addition, carrots are full of vitamins K and C as well as the important B vitamins. They're also one of the best sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant thought to reduce the chances of a number of diseases [source: World's Healthiest Foods].
You may be wondering, "Is there any meat on this list?" Fear not, fellow carnivores, our next delectable dish is often the star of the show.
What holiday meal would be complete without the main course, the featured fowl, the star of the show?
Turkey is about as ubiquitous as it gets for the holiday meal, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas or all points in between.
The only meat on this list (what list of tasty holiday foods would be complete without it?), turkey has its fair share of vitamins and minerals. To start, it's a lean white meat, healthier for you than red meat. And it's full of protein: one 4-ounce (118-gram) serving has 68 percent of your recommended daily amount of protein [source: World's Healthiest Foods].
But what about vitamins? That is the title of this article, after all. Well, turkey doesn't disappoint. That same 4-ounce serving has 42.5 percent RDA vitamin B-3 and 32 percent RDA vitamin B-6. It's also plentiful in phosphorus and zinc [source: World's Healthiest Foods].
Our final dish is one many people use to ring in the New Year, a combination of healthy veggies thought to bring good luck to the eater.
1: Black-eyed Peas and Collard Greens
A tradition that started following the Civil War in the South, revelers ring in the New Year with a meal meant to bring good luck and prosperity. Whether it brings financial wealth is debatable, but black-eyed peas and collard greens certainly bring a certain wealth of health.
The two foods are often eaten together on New Year's Day, seen as symbols of coins and cash.
Of the two, collard greens by far have the higher vitamin content. A one-cup (237-gram) serving of collard greens is loaded with vitamins -- 880 percent RDA vitamin K, 308 percent RDA vitamin A and 58 percent RDA vitamin C. Add to that 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and calcium [source: VegOnline].
And while collard greens are ridiculously good for you, don't let that overshadow the health benefits of black-eyed peas.
A half-cup (118-gram) serving of the peas provides 15 percent RDA of vitamin A and 10 percent RDA calcium, but the real health benefits come from its fiber content. One serving provides 15 percent of your daily recommended amount of fiber [source: USDA].
And that concludes our list of 10 tasty holiday foods that have vitamins. I hope it has inspired your taste buds and given you an idea of what good-for-you treats are available during the holidays.
Lots More Information
- 10 Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Holiday Foods
- 10 Healthy Cold-weather Snacks
- 5 Healthy Cold-weather Foods to Warm You Up
- 5 Tips for Flavorful Tofu Turkey
- The Cook's Thesaurus. "Winter Squash." 2005. (Sept. 26, 2012) http://www.foodsubs.com/Squash.html
- The Cranberry Institute. "Top 10 Reasons to Recommend Cranberries." 2012. (Sept. 25, 2012) http://www.cranberryinstitute.org/RCToolkit/media/2_TOP10REASONS.pdf
- Held, Lisa Elaine. "ANDI: The weird nutritional acronym explained." Well & Good NYC. May 17, 2012. (Sept. 24, 2012) http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2012/05/17/andi-the-weird-nutritional-acronym-explained/#
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