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STLMoms Nutrition Connection: Holiday Munching Power Foods

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By Jennifer McDaniel, MS,RD,CSSD,LD

‘Tis the giving season! So treat yourself to holiday goodies that are good for you. Nuts are one of the holiday season’s top five power foods. Some of the tastiest treats of the season pack a powerful nutritional wallop, We tend to associate certain foods with the holidays, but they’re so nutritious we should include them in our everyday diet. Here are my five top power foods for your holiday munching:

Cranberries: High in vitamin C, cranberries contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than most other berries. Because of their high acidity, they store easily and can keep in your refrigerator for up to two months. Substitute dried cranberries for raisins when you bake, sprinkle them over a salad or throw a handful in trail mix. Add fresh cranberries to your favorite muffin or pancake recipe. Combine fresh cranberries with diced apples, cinnamon, lemon juice, crushed pecans and sugar for a pie or cobbler filling that is the perfect blend of sweet and tart favors. Looking for a way to use up that cranberry sauce or relish?

Try this delicious salad topper:

Vinaigrette:

2 ounces fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup minced shallots
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce or leftover cranberry relish
2 tablespoons balsamic or champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger is nice as well)

Add all ingredients to a mini food processor or blender and simply blend!

Cinnamon: About a half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowers the blood-sugar levels in patients who have <!–////–>type 2 diabetes<!–////–> and reduces bad cholesterol, some studies show. Cinnamon also may help stop the growth of bacteria. Add this spice to your morning coffee, hot chocolate, hot breakfast cereal or apple cider. Shake some in pancakes, muffins or waffle batter. And sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on yogurt or winter comfort foods, such as stew or chili.

Nuts: Evidence is mounting that nuts help control your weight and decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats, which are important for heart health. Walnuts provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, which carry numerous health benefits. Add nuts and seeds to homemade trail mix or granola, use them to zip up chicken or tuna salads, combine in baked goods or sprinkle some in your salad for a healthy crunch. Caveat: because nuts are high in calories — one ounce contains about 150 calories — a small serving goes a long way.

Red wine: Appropriately colored for the season, red wine is a particularly rich source of antioxidants. Resveratrol, found in grape skins and seeds, increases HDL cholesterol and prevent blood clotting. Flavonoids also helps prevent blood clots and plaques from forming in arteries. As you celebrate the season, enjoy a glass or two, but remember moderation is the key.

Pomegranates: Credit a couple of antioxidants for giving pomegranate seeds their rich ruby red Christmas color. Pomegranate juice may have two or three times the antioxidant power of green tea or wine. Early research shows that pomegranate juice may help reduce cholesterol and possibly bring down blood pressure. Pomegranates can be a messy food to prepare, so open them over a large bowl of ice water. The pulp floats to the top and the seeds to the bottom. Sprinkle the seeds on salads, into batters or on breakfast cereals. Use the juice in a smoothie or salad dressing. Adding these foods to our eating routine is a way to extend the sparkle of the season long after <!–////–>the Christmas<!–////–> tree has come down. These five foods are natural nutrient powerhouses. Finding a way to incorporate those foods into our everyday eating patterns can help us enjoy the holidays year round