Focus on certain types of produce to stave of excess weight this holiday season.

Enjoy fruits and veggies to hold the holiday waistline

Man Grocery Shopping Fruit Healthy

The holidays can provide great family time. Usually, the traditional holiday recipes are dusted off from previous years, ingredients are purchased and dishes are made.

Perhaps this year, some of the holiday menus can focus on fruit and vegetable ingredients. But be sure to carry that produce focus into the New Year. 

Harvard researchers looked at the diets of more than 130,000 men and women, and followed them for about 24 years. Fruit and non-starchy vegetable intake was linked to healthy weights.

Healthy fruits through the holidays include berries (they can be frozen), apples, pears, plums, oranges and grapefruit. Stand-alone fruit salads are colorful and diced fruits can be added to salads and stuffing.

A number of vegetables are non-starchy and carry few calories: greens such as kale, spinach and chard; asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, peppers, onions and squash. Baby kale salad tossed with red onion slices and cranberries is beautiful on a holiday table. Toss a variety of coarsely chopped vegetable with flavorful olive oil and then roast in the oven.

Researchers found that a high intake of starchy vegetables, on the other hand, was associated with weight gain. These include potatoes, corn, green peas and lima beans. It doesn’t mean that you need to avoid these flavorful vegetables but watch the portions.   

It does make sense that if fruits and non-starchy vegetables are dominant in the diet, weight might be healthier. Produce is high fiber, pretty low in calories and can keep glucose levels even throughout the day without spikes and drops, helping to control hunger.

Over the holidays:

  • Enjoy a mixed berry sauce on multi-grain pancakes rather than syrup.
  • Incorporate seasonal fruits such as sliced apples, pears and grapefruit sections into salads.
  • Enjoy baked pears for dessert.
  • Add diced apples and butternut squash to bread, rice or barley stuffing.
  • Feature oven-roasted vegetables at holiday dinners. For example, toss Brussels sprouts or cubed butternut squash with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, roast for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.