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Insider’s Viewpoint: 5 Foods to Make Your Holidays Healthy and Bright

Winter is here. It’s dreary, it’s cold, and you’re stuck inside with too many sugary treats at your fingertips. You’re not alone. The weather and stress can leave even the happiest of us feeling the blues and blahs around the holidays. Include these colorful, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables to brighten up your plate and add a boost of health to the season.

  1. Pumpkin is filled with immune-boosting Vitamin A, and it’s packed with fiber. Fiber found in fruits and vegetables can help keep you from munching on those sugary holiday treats. Add 100% canned pumpkin to oatmeal, chili, pasta sauce, smoothies and yogurt.
  2. Pomegranates add a beautiful red hue to your holiday plate and contain powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals. Enjoy 100% pomegranate juice instead of orange juice at breakfast, in holiday mock-tails, marinades, and smoothies. Add pomegranate arils (berries) to hot and cold cereals, salads, salsa, and a colorful garnish to desserts.
  3. Kale and other leafy greens vegetables are high in fiber, which can help keep holiday cravings at bay. Use as a salad green as a wrap for your favorite sandwich ingredients. Sauté as a side dish and even add to soups, smoothies, stir-fry, and omelets.
  4. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons and clementines come in colors ranging from yellow to green to orange to red. These fruits are delicious on their own or incorporated into salads, smoothies and salsas, or squeezed into marinades and dressings.
  5. Mushrooms, when exposed to sunlight or UV rays, contain Vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin. Look on the label to see if the mushrooms you’re buying have been exposed to UV light (you can also set them outside on a sunny day). Mushrooms are a savory addition to soups and stews, a filling replacement for ground meats in recipes, and a tasty accent on salads and pasta.

While these foods definitely add color and nutrition to the season, the key is to get a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to maximize their nutrient and antioxidant power. Below is one of my favorite recipes to brighten and warm up a cold winter night.

Recipe

Baked Mini Pumpkins
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 mini pumpkins (about 1 pound each)
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 pieces stale bread (any nonsweet kind), cut into cubes
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ricotta cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the top quarter off each pumpkin and remove the seeds and stringy bits (roast pumpkin seeds in your favorite spices for a mood-boosting snack).
  2. Whisk 1 of the eggs, and toss it in a large bowl with the mushrooms, kale, bread cubes, sage, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  3. Fill each pumpkin with the stuffing mixture to a little less than 1 inch from the top, and place it on the prepared sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pumpkins have softened.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven and use a spoon to compress the stuffing a little. Pour 1 of the remaining 4 eggs into each pumpkin. Lightly cover the pumpkins with a sheet of aluminum foil. Increase the heat to 400°F and return the sheet to the oven. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the eggs are just set.
  5. Serve hot, topped with about a teaspoon of ricotta cheese and more salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from Epicurious.com

Melissa Hehmann, RD CDE ACE-CPT RYT
Regional Advisor | Health & Wellness
Meijer, Inc
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