Written by Chris Zellers, MPP -Assistant Professor/Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences Department
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 90% of Americans do not eat the recommended daily allowance for vegetables and 80% do not get needed fruit servings. This shortfall in American’s diets with vegetables and fruits means there is a gap in valuable nutrients. Eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables can be even more difficult during the holidays when there is a tendency to fill up on favorite holiday foods leaving little room for nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables. Being mindful of what you are eating during the holiday season could help you to choose a carrot stick over a chip so that you don’t miss out on nutrients that prevent holiday weight gain and keep the immune system functioning appropriately.
The average holiday dinner is 4,000 calories and 150 grams of fat and the average American should eat about 2,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight depending on age, activity level and gender. This means that one holiday dinner alone can be well over two days energy consumption in just one meal. It’s alright to enjoy your holiday meal but if you want to stay on track and not gain extra holiday weight while also keeping yourself healthy then think about adding more fruits and vegetables to your holiday traditions. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, nutrient dense, and full of healthy fiber. If you opt out of healthy produce during the holiday season, the New Year could be a good place to regularly add vegetables and fruits to your plate.
Take each day one step at a time while prepping for the holidays and continue to be mindful of what you are eating during celebrations. For example, wash and precut fruits and vegetables so that they are ready to grab and go when you are running out for holiday errands. Pack lunch for work the night before so you have a nutritious lunch on hand packed full of fruit and veggies. At dinner put extra vegetables in soups, or crockpot meals to fit them in. If you are grabbing a meal on the go, put vegetables or fruit on pizzas or add vegetables as a sandwich topper. Smoothies are a good way to add extra fruits and veggies but when the produce is pureed it does remove some of the fiber that is valuable, whole vegetables and fruits are best, but smoothies still make an easy grab and go breakfast. If you are bringing a dish to a party, bring something like roasted vegetables or a vegetable soup like butternut squash soup so you know that there is something you can eat that will be packed with nutrients. Add fresh cut vegetables or fruits to cheese plates at celebrations so there is a produce option. Put broccoli in a side dish like macaroni and or make a fruit-based stuffing. There are so many ways to use vegetables in holiday celebrations that can keep you eating healthy all year long, find one you enjoy and make a new tradition, like this Harvest Salad from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Family and Community Health Sciences webpage: https://njaes.rutgers.edu/fchs/recipes/recipe.php?Harvest-Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 medium size roasted butternut squash
1 cup cooked lentils
1 package arugula or chopped kale
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
½ – ¾ cup crumbled feta, goat or blue cheese (your choice)
½ cup dried cranberries
- medium oranges zested & juiced
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon honey
Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Peel squash, remove seeds & cut in bite-size pieces. Place cut squash on cookie sheet & drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until fork tender.
- Prepare lentils & quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients & set aside.
- Once all items are cool mix them together in a large bowl.
- Drizzle dressing over top of the salad then add cranberries, almonds & toss together. Just before serving sprinkle with cheese & serve at room temperature. Enjoy!