At the end of every year, food—good or bad—is always in abundance, and, for the sake of our waistlines, we always tell ourselves to stay away from certain food and drink. But, many of the foods we often steer away from are actually healthy options we should be considering year-round. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best health-conscious food and drink options that often get a bad reputation during this time of year.
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Turkey Dark Meat
“While dark meat has a bit more fat than white meat does, the extra fat raises your levels of cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that makes you feel fuller, longer,” explains dietician and nutrition expert Christine Palumbo, adding that the dark meat offers much more iron than its white counterpart. “The benefit is that you’ll be less likely to overeat in the hours that follow your meal!”
Palumbo explains that pumpkin is a vegetable rich in carotenoids for fighting free radicals as well as a good source of potassium and fiber. “Of course, a small piece of pie is best, and to minimize the calorie load, forgo the whipped cream and leave most of the crust on your plate.”
Often given a bad reputation as the most unhealthy vegetable due to its starchy nature, corn is actually a grain and good for you. A single cup of corn kernels boasts 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein as well as B Vitamins for energy support. Plus, it can be found in so many variations (like popcorn, tortillas or alone), that it makes healthy snacking easy.
Wine and Champagne
According to Joy Bauer, RDN, health and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today show, we shouldn’t steer away from toasting this holiday season. “A 5-ounce glass of wine or champagne has about 120 calories,” she explains, adding although people worry about the sugar content, both of these drinks are actually low in sugar. “In fact, wine and bubbly tend to be the most slimming cocktails around, and you typically sip them more slowly than other holiday beverages (think: eggnog).” Plus, Bauer explains that a moderate amount (one glass for women, two for men) of alcohol—particularly red wine—has been shown to have a bevvy of health benefits including a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
Who doesn’t love a good olive platter? It turns out, you can indulge the next time you see one. “Five large olives contain a mere 25 calories and 3 grams of, well, olive oil, which we know is super healthful,” explains Palumbo. “And guess what food group olives belong to? Yes, vegetable!”
While we’re often blindsided by the fat and calorie counts on the milk jug (resulting in us choosing skim milk instead), focus on the health benefits prevalent in whole milk. Aside from delivering a healthy dose of calcium, drinking whole milk has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer while also aiding in muscle growth and repair.
Bauer explains that pecans are one of the richest sources of antioxidants (especially Vitamin E) and a great way to protect your heart but only when eaten alone. “A single slice of pecan pie contains about 500 calories,” says Bauer, suggesting toasting pecans on a baking sheet for a healthy, candy-like snack. “They’ll make your whole house smell like the holidays, but stick to an ounce or quarter-cup portion to keep calories in check.”
While we think we’re doing our bodies a favor by reaching for butter substitutes, those stand-ins don’t include naturally occurring saturated fats, which are prevalent in natural butter. If you choose organic butter (from grass-fed cows), you’ll deliver your body a healthy dose of linoleic acid, which contains vitamin K2 and Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to support heart health and weight loss.
Cranberry Nut Bread
Palumbo explains that a one inch slice
contains about 200 calories and 6 grams of fat. “Cranberries contain a
potentially cancer-preventing compound called ellagic acid while also packed
with vitamin C, dietary fiber and manganese. Plus, the nuts provide
monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and dietary fiber.”
Like corn, potatoes are often dismissed as an unhealthy vegetable because of its high starch content. But the truth is, it’s a great healthy option. A medium-sized potato contains about 160 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein while also delivering about 10 percent of your daily iron content and 70 percent of your daily vitamin C needs.