As I write this column, I’m looking out on snow-covered hills listening to “White Christmas” on the radio. Not that I’m even near ready for the holiday. Until yesterday, I still had pumpkins and Thanksgiving turkeys all over the house.
Maybe that’s not so bad. Recent travel and other commitments have forced me to look at this Christmas season with more … simplicity. So this year, I will be content to give simpler gifts and prepare uncomplicated dishes in order to better concentrate on the richness of family and friends.
Still, it’s the holiday, right? Here are some festive yet simple indulgences that can also be healthful … with a few precautions:
Entertain nuts. And not just your relatives. Tree nuts like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are one of our best food groups to reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, according to a recent analysis of these perfect holiday snacks. Tree nuts are high in healthful mono- and polyunsaturated fats, the type we are called to eat in place of more saturated fats. Set them out for holiday party munchers and use in recipes for an extra boost of healthful fiber, protein and fat.
And who says fun dessert recipes can’t also be good for us? I’m going to make this goodie with my grandkids this year: Walnut Chocolate Bliss Balls from the California walnut growers (www.walnuts.org). Every recipe I’ve tried from this site has been top notch.
Christmas guacamole. Avocados supply more than a creamy opulent taste. They are also rich in healthful monounsaturated fats, the same kind we get in olive oil. And they are the right color for Christmas, especially if you serve them along with fresh red salsa. Hint: If you want to give me a gift, get the fresh guacamole recipe from Chef Gabe at Pescadero Restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea and share it with me.
Colorful sides. Brighten you holiday ham or other main dish with red and green fruits and vegetables. Remember when you add a variety of colors and textures to your plate, you enrich your health with a diversity of heart-protecting, cancer-fighting, obesity-preventing substances.
And then there’s eggnog … Ever notice that we can only buy this indulgent egg, milk and sugar concoction during the holidays? There’s a reason for that. If l had access to it year-round I would be very round indeed. We can enjoy this holiday treat like we sip a fine wine … slowly and delicately.
Decorate a gingerbread house with your grandkids. Even if they eat more of the decorative frosting and candy than they put on their creation. The memories will last longer than the sugar.
May you enjoy these holy days of Christmas!
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.