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Color Your Holiday Meals with Nutrition

Antioxidants

​Halloween is Friday.  People are booking their flights home for Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations are already for sale everywhere!  As we decorate for the holidays, let us not forget how to plan our menus and adorn our plates with plenty of colorful, whole foods in season.  It’s easy when you start thinking of what to serve based on what is in season.  Let Mother Nature be your guide.  She provides us with foods in a variety of colors wrapped up in fiber and mineral rich packaging.  Most of these colorful foods are plants, and the deeper the color often the more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and helpful phytochemicals you consume.


Studies suggest that antioxidants that are plentiful in these deeply colored plant foods can decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease, and complications related to diabetes. Antioxidants boost your immune system and speed up recovery times while decreasing pain and inflammation. 

I challenge my clients to eat whole foods (foods that come out of the earth or the animals that eat these plants) of at least 4 different colors at each meal.  Why?  Because by design, Mother Nature already offers us foods in a variety of colors in season to help us eat for optimum health.  This is why all the citrus fruits ripen this time of year.  Lemons, oranges, mandarins and grapefruits are packed with vitamin C to help ward of colds and flu this colder time of the year.  But I digress…

Back to punching up your holiday meals to infuse color and nutrition.  Here is an example of a holiday meal makeover doing just that.

Holiday Meal Makeover

BEFORE:

Roast turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, bread rolls & butter.  This menu looks a little bland with mostly yellow & white.  It covers the basics providing the three macronutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat, but is limited on the amount of micronutrients it provides due to the lack of deep color.  (basically some iron, B vitamins and potassium)

AFTER:

Roast turkey (white), sautéed Swiss chard (green), sweet potato mash topped with pecans (orange and brown), and cranberry salad (red).  This menu meets the 4 color challenge!  It has the macronutrients covered along with greater amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients including calcium, iron, folate, B vitamins, beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin K, just to name a few.  So how do I know what fruits and vegetables are in season for the holidays?

  1. Visit your local farmers market.  They sell foods in season.. 
  2. Fruits and vegetables in season at the supermarket are usually the ones on sale due to a larger supply that time of year (Check signage to make sure they are grown in the U.S. and not imported from Mexico or South America.)
  3. Contact your state Department of Agriculture or look for your state in this online guide from Field to Plate  to find what’s in season in your part of the country.

And lastly, if you live somewhere where there is snow on the grown over the holidays, you will need to purchase fresh fruits and veggies that have been shipped in from another state, frozen or canned.  The 4 color challenge still applies, and based on your budget, you want to choose as much fresh as you can with the balance coming mostly from frozen fruits and veggies versus canned because they retain more nutrient value.

So as you plan your holiday meals this season, adding more color will not only make the meal more eye appealing, but will boost nutrition too!  Challenge yourself and your family to plan four different colors at each meal!
Happy Eating!

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angela sitting outdoors on laptop eating healthy foods

About the Author

Angela is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), board-certified health coach and trained yoga teacher who helps clients achieve a healthy weight and gain control over their GI distress.

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