Healthy holiday eating

Susan Dawson-Cook

Make a conscious decision to exercise and eat healthy instead of taking the easy way out and using the holiday season as an excuse to abandon good habits. Your healthy choice plan can equal a fun adventure when you embark on a diet rich in bone building calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium supplements are not absorbed as effectively as calcium rich foods. Most of us know dairy products are packed with calcium, but did you know that leafy greens including Bok Choy, broccoli, collard greens and kale are also chock full of this vital mineral? Leafy greens are also rich in magnesium, vitamin K and carotenoids.

Broccoli can sit center stage on your holiday veggie trays. Bok Choy and kale can be the new highlight of soups and salads. I often prepare a big pot of soup on Sundays so we have dinner and at least two lunches later on. I prepare the broth with chicken drumsticks and then add leafy greens, lentils, rice and chopped carrots. It’s a delicious way to warm up on a chilly evening while nourishing the body. My soup is packed with protein, calcium, and magnesium. Most soups are surprisingly low in calories so enjoying a light soup meal is a good way to offset excessive caloric consumption from another meal that day. Get as creative as you like. Almost any favorite vegetable, spice or grain can liven up a soup recipe. Some of my other favorite additions are barley, quinoa and pinto beans.

Tofu, dried figs, almonds, molasses and fish with bones, such as salmon or sardines, are other calcium sources. Add tofu and/or almonds to your next stir-fry or salad. Enjoy dried figs as a pre-exercise snack or chop them up and mix them into a bowl of yogurt or cereal.

Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium so it’s wise to eat D-rich foods with calcium rich foods. Vitamin D is found in eggs, butter, fatty fish and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereal. Pour yourself a glass of a vitamin D enriched beverage to accompany your calcium rich salad, soup or stir-fry. Mushrooms, naturally rich in vitamin D, soak up the mineral much like our bodies and can pack even more punch if placed in direct sunlight for an hour or two before consumption. Don’t forget to toss some of them in your kale salad.

If you’re wondering if fruits can benefit bones, I have good news. Several studies indicate that the flavonoids and carotenoids in colorful vegetables and fruits improve the eater’s bone density by counteracting the effects of oxidative stress on the body. So remember to put out those fruit trays at parties. Many people, like you, are trying hard to stay healthy over the holidays.

We all get derailed from healthy eating once in a while. By eating highly nutritious meals most days, the holidays can be as merry for your health as for your mood.