Instead of indulging in unhealthy treats this season, go to your holiday celebrations prepared to enjoy truly nutritious and delicious party foods. Here, our guide to the best eats and drinks — and why they’re good for you!
1. Dark Chocolate
Enjoy: 1 ounce of dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. For a super decadent dessert, try our Melt in Your Mouth Chocolate Banana Mousse.
Health benefits: Dark chocolate contains high levels of “flavonoids,” which are potent antioxidants that protect cells and tissues from the damage of stress, poor diet, and aging.
Latest research: A 2011 analysis published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed 10 clinical trials and concluded that consuming dark chocolate significantly reduces total and LDL cholesterol. Another 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the cardio-protective effects of dark chocolate’s flavonoids and found that chocolate increased the ability of the subjects to fight off stress at the cellular level, which can help the body fight illness at all levels.
2. Red Wine
Enjoy: Up to, but not more than, 5 ounces (one glass) per day for women, and 10 ounces (two glasses) for men.
Health benefits: Red wine contains the antioxidant “resveratrol” from grape skins, which may reduce blood clotting. It may also improve sexual function in women.
Latest research: The Journal of Dietary Supplements reports that resveratrol appears to have cancer protective and anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Peppermint Tea
Enjoy:A cup of peppermint tea with a spoonful of honey.
Health benefits: Peppermint appears to reduce abdominal pain, excess gas, and diarrhea in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
Latest research: A 2011 article reported that antispasmodic herbs such as peppermint, which suppressed muscle spasms and reduced symptoms of irritable bowel disease.
Enjoy:1/4 cup of nuts
Health benefits: Nuts contain nutritious fatty acids, protein, and fiber. Plus, they are an excellent source of vitamin E, folate, and magnesium
Latest research: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an article that examined 13 studies to identify a strong association of nuts with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Diets high in walnuts significantly decreased total and LDL cholesterol. A second study found that pistachios may help stabilize blood sugar levels.
5. Chocolate-Covered Popcorn or Dipped Fruit
Enjoy:1/4 cup of nuts
Health benefits: Dip some healthy fruits or whole grains in dark chocolate and you’ve got a perfectly delicious treat. Popcorn is a whole grain that offers dietary fiber for digestive health as well as antioxidants in the form of carotenoids. For something sweeter, choose dried peaches, apricots or pears (not dried with sulfur dioxide) and dip them in melted dark chocolate. Allow time for the chocolate to harden before serving to friends and family.
Splurging during the holidays can be fun, tasty, and pleasurable. However, it is important to choose your treats wisely, watch your portion sizes and eat them slowly! Savor every minute to make the experience last longer.
Dietetic intern Rachel Paul contributed to the researching and writing of this post.