It’s what we do with these foods during the holidays that give them a bad rap.

By Lauren Wicks
Updated December 11, 2018
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When most people think about the holidays, their minds go straight to food-and all the guilt from indulging that seems destined to go with it. While there are plenty of unhealthy dishes to fill your holiday table with this season, you can still enjoy a festive meal with these six nutrient-rich foods.

Cocoa

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Dark chocolate has shown to be a healthful part of a balanced diet, as it is full of antioxidants and can even reduce physical and emotional stress in the body. These benefits also are attributed to minimally-processed cocoa powder, meaning a cup of hot cocoa can be healthier than expected. Reduce the sugar, replacing some with aromatic spices, and choose a healthy milk for a cozy, indulgent drink you can feel good about. Cocoa can also be a heart-healthy addition to your morning cup of coffee.

View Recipe: Spiked Hot Chocolate

Gingerbread

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We are not talking about a heavily-iced gingerbread person here, but rather a more wholesome baked good. Ginger and molasses both have a host of benefits, as ginger is an anti-inflammatory and beneficial for digestion, while molasses is rich in many vitamins and minerals. Gingerbread is often lower in sugar and fat than many other holiday goodies, making it a dessert option you can feel good about eating.

Keeping healthier holiday goodies like gingerbread out during the holidays, instead of more sugar and fat-laden treats, will still satisfy your sweet craving and remain festive without packing too big a punch all month long.

View Recipe: Gingerbread Squares

Potatoes

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The humble potato is a simple, yet hotly-debated tuber. Research shows potatoes are an excellent part of a balanced diet depending on how you cook them. One potato has four grams of fiber, energizing carbs, and lots of vitamins and minerals. Fried varieties and even baked versions topped with butter and high-fat dairy should be avoided to best enjoy the spud’s full health potential. Studies have shown we crave more carbs in the winter, and potatoes are no exception. Comforting dishes like shepherd’s pie, potato latkes, and mashed potatoes are festive staples in the winter month.

You won’t miss out on the extra fat by roasting potatoes instead of frying them or reducing the amounts of butter and heavy cream in your favorite mashed potatoes recipe.

View Recipe: Fingerling Potato Salad With Mustard Vinaigrette

Cranberries

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Cranberry sauce can often be a sugar bomb of a side dish, but the fruit itself is actually lower in sugar than many others. This tart berry is full of fiber and antioxidants and has shown to be a beneficial part of a woman’s diet. Try a lower-sugar version of cranberry sauce this year, or change it up completely by turning it into a savory-sweet condiment.

View Recipe: Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

Popcorn

Dana Hoff

Popcorn is far from being considered a “superfood,” but it still makes for a festive yet healthy snack. Popcorn is full of fiber and low in calories, making its large serving size seem indulgent without breaking your diet. Forgo gifting or grazing the massive tins of sugar-laden and additive-dusted varieties and go with a homemade treat or one of our top pre-packaged picks.

View Recipe: Old-Fashioned Popcorn Balls

Holiday Foods to Avoid:

Honey-Baked Ham

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While a honey-baked ham is a favorite main dish during the holidays, research continues to show ham and processed meat consumption increases your risk for cancer. Opting for a leaner, more heart-healthy option, like roasted chicken or baked fish, can help keep inflammation and reflux at bay this holiday.

View Recipe: Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Eggnog

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Classic store-bought and homemade recipes for eggnog are loaded with fat, cholesterol, and sugar, making it a drink you want to save for for a very special occasion. One serving of eggnog can be up to 350 calories! However, all is not lost. There are many lower-fat and plant-based varieties out there, including an Almond Nog from Trader Joe’s with a pretty impressive nutritional profile compared to the traditional store-bought versions. However, if you are looking for a homemade option, our healthier vegan eggnog is only 92 calories and is made with healthy ingredients for a sweet treat that is good for you too! We also have several winter cocktails if you want to ditch the ‘nog altogether.

View Recipe: Holiday Coconut Cooler