Heli J. Roy, Merrill, Thomas A., LaFleur, Kara D.
During the holidays we often indulge in rich foods we might not normally eat at other times of the year. LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy says there are ways to enjoy these bountiful foods during this season and still maintain a healthy lifestyle.
"To improve your health during the holidays, choose colorful foods that are low in fat and salt," Roy says. "Keep portions small to avoid overeating. Include variety of textures and flavors, and be liberal in the use of herbs and spices."
Roy says building a plate that has many colors is important – but not just for the way it looks.
"When you have foods with different colors, you are eating many different phytochemcials – which are antioxidants that help to delay the development of chronic diseases," Roy explains.
The federal government’s new MyPyramid and Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least two cups of fruits and two and a half cups of vegetables a day.
Experts say consuming fruits and vegetables, as recommended, will help fight chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. They also say to include whole grains and lean meats to build a diet that helps prevent and delay chronic disease development.
Among the vegetables that offer a variety of phytochemicals are broccoli, carrots, beans, collard greens, squash and beets.
"When you eat turkey, you should choose light meat and leave the skin on your plate," Roy advises about one of the traditional holiday items. "A serving size is about 3 ounces, and lean turkey breast has about 120 calories and only a few grams of fat. The light meat from turkey and other poultry is one of the best sources for lean protein."
According to the LSU AgCenter nutritionist, some of the other healthful aspects of holiday foods or tips for keeping them as healthful as possible:
–Dressing, stuffing and casseroles usually contain onions, garlic or leeks. These have allyl sulfides, which are strong antioxidants that help to reduce molecules that can cause harm.
–Parsley, sage, thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary increase the amount of good phytochemicals.
–Reducing fat content while adding herbs and vegetables makes dressing a good-for-you food that has many great antioxidants.
–If you are making a rice dressing, use whole-grain rice rather than white rice to add fiber, protein, nutrients and phytochemicals to the dressing. "Whole grain or brown rice also adds a nice nutty taste to the dressing," Roy says.
–Choose pies based on colors you might have missed in the earlier part of the meal. Fruits in pies have several vitamins, minerals and good antioxidants. "Spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves or ginger have many beneficial phytochemicals that can delay the development of chronic diseases," Roy adds.