Tired of hearing about which foods to limit during the holidays? Let's focus on what foods to add to your holidays!

Foods to Include this Holiday Season

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Tired of hearing about which foods to limit during the holidays? Let's focus on what foods to add to your holidays!

Head into the holidays with respect for your body and aim to include plenty of seasonal produce that nourishes your body, mind and senses. Fall produce such as winter squash, cruciferous vegetables and apples contain a variety of disease fighting nutrients:

  • Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, which protect our cells from damage
  • Flavenoids, such as Quercetin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Carotenoids, which protect our eyes from ultra-violet damage and may aid in cancer prevention
  • Glucosinolates, which are under investigation for their cancer fighting properties
  • Vitamin A, which aids in immune function
  • Folate, which has a potential role in helping treat depression

In addition, fall/ winter produce is high in fiber. Consuming foods high in fiber helps regulate our bowels. Fiber may help lower blood cholesterol and it helps to stabilize our blood sugar, which benefits both our bodies and moods. Having low blood sugar can bring on that unpleasant "hangry" feeling. The fiber content of the vegetables and fruits we consume can also help us reach a feeling of fullness and satisfaction with our meals.

Preparing seasonal produce in ways that appeal to our taste buds and engage our senses can add to our feelings of satisfaction with our foods. Here are some suggestions for including the bounty of fall/ winter produce this holiday season.

Winter squashes: Pumpkin, Butternut squash, Acorn squash, Spaghetti squash

  • Pumpkin pie is one traditional, delicious way to enjoy winter squash. This year consider adding to your winter squash enjoyment by making a homemade soup with pureed butternut squash, broth and aromatic spices such as garlic and ginger.

Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Kale, Collards, Brussels sprouts

  • Consider adding new flavors for the senses to an old-fashioned vegetable by roasting Brussels sprouts drizzled with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar.

Apples: All varieties

  • Enhance an ordinary bowl of oatmeal by cooking it with chopped apple and cinnamon. Add a sweet crunch to salads by adding chopped apple. And, let's not forget about delicious pies made with apples!

Shopping at local Farmer's Markets for your holiday produce can be a great way to get outside and honor your body with gentle movement, mingle with other fresh food enthusiasts, and meet the people who have grown your food. Often, farmers will give good ideas about preparing their produce. Reflecting on where your food was grown and who grew it is another way to add enjoyment to your holiday eating.

Robin Atwood, MS, RD, CSO has a Bachelor's degree in Dietetics and a Master's Degree in Health Science, both from James Madison University. She has been serving the community surrounding Sentara RMH for the last 19 years. Robin has been a Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition since 2008 and works in the Sentara RMH Hahn Cancer Center where she provides nutrition counseling for maximizing nutrition and wellness to cancer patients and cancer survivors.