On the Table

Nutritious food can be festive

November 19, 2013 

Time to stage your home – and steel yourself – for the holidays.

By taking some simple steps, you can set up a food environment that feels festive but softens the blow to your diet from holiday excesses. Do it and you’ll thank yourself when the New Year arrives.

For starters, surround yourself with goodness. Stock your home with staples that signal the change in season but are generally wholesome.

These examples are low in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium:

• Seasonal fresh fruits. Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, apples and pears are colorful and appealing when they’re heaped high in a big bowl on your kitchen counter. Thin slices make good garnishes, and fresh fruit salad is quick and easy to serve with breakfast for house guests.

• Unsalted nuts. Keep on hand a supply of mixed nuts such as Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans. Set out bowls for snacking when you have guests over, and use leftovers chopped into salads, casseroles, muffins and cooked oatmeal.

• Dried fruit arrangements. Those little wicker trays artfully arranged with apricots, apple rings, pears, peaches, dates and pineapple are pretty to set out for snacks, and like nuts, you can add leftovers to salads, quick breads, muffins and cookies as well as hot breakfast cereals.

• Low-cal beverages. Keep on hand plenty of seltzer water or club soda to serve with lemon or lime wedges and for mixing with fruit juice to add fizz and cut the calories.

If you like to bake, you know how helpful it is to have a few loaves of banana bread or other quick breads on hand in the freezer. Add a handful of fresh cranberries to the batter for holiday color and flavor.

A batch or two of homemade, whole-wheat yeast rolls are holiday gold, too.

Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with other snacks and sides that are easy to set out when guests come over or you need something to pair with a sandwich or bowl of soup for a quick and simple lunch. Hummus, sliced veggies, whole grain pita chips or crackers, broccoli slaw studded with dried cranberries or cherries, and Waldorf salad, easy on the mayo, are examples.

A little preparation now may help extend your holiday cheer beyond December.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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