Nutrition Education

Holiday Time

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Hopefully, this time of year instills happy memories of time spent with loved ones….especially around a ginormous table filled with delicious holiday food.

Though I enjoy eating the ‘traditional’ foods served this time of year, for many years I never thought about the nutritional value of the food I was eating. (I really only thought about how the food tasted.)

A couple of years ago, I decided to fall down a rabbit hole and learn about the specific nutrients in the foods we commonly eat between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Here’s what I discovered.

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Heritage Turkey

For me, it can’t be holiday time without a beautiful heritage turkey, prepared one or two times. You won’t catch me eating a conventionally-raised turkey that overtakes the freezer section of most grocery stores….but I do like to find small, family farms, and get a fresh bird that spent its’ entire life in wide-open fields. These birds pack an amazing punch when it comes to nutrition.

A 3-ounce serving provides:

  • 117 calories
  • 24 grams of protein
  • 60% RDA Niacin (B3)
    • Necessary for healthy liver and adrenal gland function
  • 50% RDA Pyridoxine (B6)
    • Necessary for the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters
  • 30% RDA Cobalamin (B12)
    • Necessary for a healthy brain, spinal cord, and nerves
  • 45% RDA Selenium
    • Necessary for healthy thyroid function

And…..when you’re done eating the turkey, save the bones! It’s so easy to make a big batch of bone broth. Once you make your first batch of bone broth, you’ll never throw bones away.

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Sweet Potato

There are so many ways to eat this tasty food. My mother-in-law would slice these up with apples and put in the crockpot with cinnamon and a bit of apple cider and cook for several hours. A very super easy recipe without any added sugar. The apples added all the sweetness you could hope for.

A 1-cup serving provides:

  • 7 grams of fiber
  • 77% RDA Vitamin A
    • Important for skin and eye health, reduces risk of measles
  • 65% RDA Vitamin C
    • Enhances immune function and heart health
  • 50% RDA Manganese
    • Supports healthy blood sugar regulation
  • 30% RDA Pyridoxine (B6)
  • 30% RDA Potassium
    • An important electrolyte that supports optimal heart health

The rich colors found in sweet potatoes are a great source of antioxidants. The purple and orange colors, in particular, contain nutrients called anthocyanins. Some studies have shown that these compounds can minimize the risk of bladder, breast, colon and stomach cancer.

Recipe: Wasabi Miso Mashed Sweet Potatoes

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Brussels Sprouts

I know….I know….not everyone’s a big fan…..but I love these little guys….especially if they’re cooked with bacon. Yum Yum! Once you read the research on the nutritional value of this little powerhouse, maybe you’ll give them a second look.

A ½ cup serving provides:

  • Only 6 teeny carbs
  • 140% RDA Vitamin K
    • Supports healthy bones and is crucial for blood clotting
  • 80% RDA Vitamin C
    • Supports collagen structure and is an antioxidant

Brussels sprouts are rich in a variety of antioxidants. One in particular, kaempferol, has got great research behind it. Some studies show that this nutrient decreases inflammation, improves heart health and reduces cancer cell growth.

I hope you’ll add these little guys to your holiday table this year.

Recipe: Cancer-Protective Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Maple Brown Butter

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This is another food that might get overlooked, but, when properly prepared, can be so dang delicious. And, please don’t eat the congealed stuff from a can….YIKES!

When I prepare cranberries, I cook with a bit of orange juice, slice a bunch of strawberries, and add a small amount of maple syrup (1 tablespoon or less). Then I add my spices until the taste is just right. I love the tart of the cranberries with the sweet of the strawberries. A match made in heaven.

This fruit is loaded with important antioxidants, including:

  • Myricetin
    • Helps with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
  • Peonidin
    • Improves heart health and reduces the risk of cancer
  • Proanthocyanidins
    • Helps with urinary tract infections
  • Quercetin
    • Improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, reduces allergies and inflammation
  • Ursolic Acid
    • Improves muscle mass, insulin sensitivity and liver health

After reading the research, I hope you will look for ways to add this powerful berry to your regular line-up, when they are in season.

Recipe: Squash Stuffed with Pears and Wild Rice

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A holiday season can’t be complete without a delicious piece, or two, of pumpkin pie. You don’t even need to make it with a crust. We all know the star of the show is the filling.

I could’ve written an entire blog about the health benefits of the spices that are typically added to pumpkin pie.

  • Cinnamon – blood sugar regulation
  • Clove – blood sugar regulation and anti-bacterial properties
  • Nutmeg – improves cognition and immune function

But, there’s plenty of nutrition in the pumpkin, alone.

A ½ cup serving provides:

  • 245% RDA Vitamin A
  • 20% RDA Vitamin C

Pumpkin is also rich in antioxidants, alpha carotene, beta carotene, and beta cryptoxanthin. Beta cryptoxanthin protects skin and eyes from the sun’s damaging rays and also protects against skin cancer.

Recipe: Dairy-free Turmeric Pumpkin Pie Panna Cotta

Isn’t it great to know that a traditional holiday meal is loaded with nutrients to support all areas of health and well-being?

Additionally, all of these foods can be prepared with very little added sugar, which optimizes the health benefits.

It is, indeed, possible to enjoy your favorites foods during the holiday season and enter 2020 a healthier version of yourself.

May you be surrounded by exceptional love and health this holiday season.


Author: Dr. Becky Spacke is a course instructor at the Nutrition Therapy Institute. In addition, she has a private practice, working with people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. You can learn more by visiting



Image by His is free for use by Pixabay

Brussels sprouts before roasting by John Sullivan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Cranberry Sauce by is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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