Fruits and veggies - the sweet gift to holiday and winter meals and snacks

Whether you’re at the mall holiday shopping, sampling sweet treats in the break room at work, or visiting relatives for a family meal, during the holiday season you might be reaching for over-processed and under-nutritious foods. Remember, our bodies benefit from getting five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Through the end of the year, as you ring in 2017, and all winter long, use fruits and vegetables to enhance flavors in your dishes or to satisfy your hunger with a healthy snack. You might feel better and be healthier. With a little planning and preparation you won’ t get the winter blues over unhealthy indulgences this season!

Here are some helpful tips for using seasonal produce available this winter. Consider these colorful, tasty ways to trim your dishes.  The bright colors of fresh fruits and vegetables can add festivity to your table or your on-the-go snacks holiday snacks.

Apples are rich in vitamin C to support your immune system, and pectin, which can help fight cardiovascular disease. Keeping the skin on your apple, helps you benefit from high levels of flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Use them on salads with a little olive oil and vinegar – rather than using sugary, salty salad dressings.

Pumpkins are rich in potassium and B vitamins. They deliver up to 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber. They are also rich in phytosterols, which might help to reduce bad cholesterol. Add a little canned pumpkin and some cinnamon to plain yogurt to have a sweet, healthy pumpkin-pie-flavored treat.

Turnips are root vegetables that are a great source of vitamin A, C, K, fiber and folate. Try young turnips raw and thinly sliced with a low-fat dip for a crunchy snack.

Winter squash has a thick skin, which makes it perfect for storing. It’s an excellent source of vitamin A. It’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids, the same “good fat” that you’ll find in salmon and other fish. Sprinkle it with cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger before baking for a distinctive fall flavor.

Leeks are part of the Allium family of vegetables, which includes garlic and onions. They contain high levels of a flavonoid called kaempferol, which is known to help protect blood vessels and may also have anti-cancer effects. Slice them thinly and include them in homemade soups rather than using canned soups.

Brussels Sprouts are a good source of vitamin K and folate. They are also very high in iron, which makes them the perfect dish for people who have anemia. Instead of boiling them, roast them to bring out their naturally tangy flavor.

Parsnips are rich in potassium and fiber. Their nutty flavor makes them a great addition to winter soups and other dishes.

Cauliflower is rich in vitamins and minerals. Try “smashed cauliflower” instead of mashed potatoes for a lower carbohydrate treat.

Pears are one of the lowest-calorie, highest fiber-containing fruits. One medium-sized pear has nearly 20 percent of your daily requirement of fiber, as well as vitamins A, C and B-6. No preparation is needed for this grab-and-go healthy snack!

Winter fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest foods for your body. Comfort yourself by knowing these nutrient-rich foods are giving you the vitamins and minerals you need. Tame your sweet tooth naturally with fresh and healthy, rather than with processed and artificial.

Laura Engelmann, MHA
Community Health & Wellness Manager
AtlantiCare Healthy Schools, Healthy Children
AtlantiCare Growing Green