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13 Holiday Foods That Are Actually Good for You

Healthy eating over the holidays doesn't have to be impossible. In fact, you're likely already eating some of the best foods for your weight and health without even knowing it. Here, nutritionists dish on which festive foods won't wreck your waistline this season.

Fresh brussel sprouts over rustic wooden texture. Top view.Yuliya Gontar/Shutterstock

Brussels sprouts

This vegetable is high in fiber, says Neda Varbanova of Healthy with Nedi, who has a master’s degree in food studies and is a certified culinary nutritionist and holistic health coach. This means that filling up on them will keep you satiated for longer and promote healthy digestion. Plus, one cup contains all of your daily requirements for immune-boosting vitamins K and C, Varbanova adds. While your diet is definitely important, check out these 50 ways to have your healthiest holiday ever.

Fresh white heads cleaned cauliflower in a wicker basket for cauliflower. Rustic gray wooden background. Top view, blank space.Sergey Fatin/Shutterstock

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is the perfect side for non-meat eaters, according to Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Maya Feller Nutrition. “It’s an excellent source of plant-based protein in addition to having fiber and vitamins K, C, and also vitamin B6, which helps with brain development and helps the body make the good mood hormone serotonin.” Check out these other seasonal superfoods you might not be eating.

High angle view of an Acorn Squash cut in half on a metal baking sheet with a spoon and seeds scooped out.Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

Acorn squash

“Acorn squash contains a bioavailable form of beta-carotene—a pigment known to protect against heart disease and cancers,” says Varbanova. “It’s also an anti-inflammatory food, which helps to fight chronic inflammation.” Everything from asthma to rheumatoid arthritis is considered inflammatory conditions, and piling your plate up with acorn squash can help reduce your flare-ups and symptoms. Find out what to eat before a holiday party, so you don’t go overboard with your diet (or lack thereof).

Fresh pomegranate seeds in bowl on a blank wooden backgroundandregric/Shutterstock

Pomegranate

Instead of tossing your Brussels sprouts with bacon, consider pomegranate seeds instead. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that aside from the antioxidant properties of the seeds, they can also fight inflammation, protecting against conditions from heart disease to diabetes and even certain cancers.

Tasty roasted turkey on plateAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Turkey

Consider having this bird make an encore performance in your holiday meals, even after Thanksgiving has passed. “Turkey is one of the lower-calorie proteins you can eat,” says Varbanova. Just remember to keep portion control in mind: Varbanova says women should stick to three to four ounces of lean turkey while men can have six to seven ounces. Portion control always prevails, but these 31 tricks to avoid holiday weight gain will also come in handy.

Raw Organic Green Collard Greens on a BackgroundBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Collard greens

Feller recommends this mild green as a sauteed, stewed, or steamed side. Raw collard greens are 90 percent water and a high source of the antioxidant vitamin C. Collard greens also provide calcium and are a low-calorie veggie–a half-cup yields about 33 calories. Check out these vegetables you should stop avoiding and start reaping the health benefits instead.

Sandy iron yamHelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

Yams

Contrary to popular belief, a yam is not a sweet potato, nor is it a type of sweet potato (though your grocery store might use the two interchangeably). Yams have a dark, rough skin with a white flesh compared to sweet potatoes. “Yams are full of beta-carotene, as well as, being a good source of dietary fiber and potassium,” says Varbanova. “In a medium-sized yam, you get more than enough of your daily vitamin A requirement and a third of your vitamin C requirement,” she adds. Still confused by yams versus sweet potatoes? Chances are these other food pairs have you stumped, too.

Butternut squash cut in half on a wooden surfaceziashusha/Shutterstock

Butternut squash

This veggie has some benefits you might not be aware of. Feller says butternut squash is a solid source of potassium and calcium. It’s also an antioxidant, meaning it helps to stop or limit the damage caused by free radicals to your body, which can help boost your immune system and slow down signs of aging. These 12 habits will also help naturally boost your immune system.

Bowl of green beans on wooden background, top viewbigacis/Shutterstock

Green beans

“Green beans are one of the healthiest foods you can eat during the holidays, especially when boiled or steamed,” says Varbanova. (This means you should keep it simple and skip any casserole-style options which are typically packed with saturated fat and calories.) “One cup of green beans contains 10 percent of your daily folate requirement, virtually no fat and 4 grams of fiber.” Weird but true: these holiday foods can cause bad breath.

Fresh juicy cranberry in wooden round bowls with a wooden spoon on a table, close upsavitskaya iryna/Shutterstock

Cranberries

Cranberries are another holiday antioxidant, but a less-known perk of this fruit is that they’re great for your digestive health, according to Varbanova. Past research published in the journal Helicobacter found that the natural compounds found in cranberries prevent a type of bacteria called H. pylori from sticking to your stomach, later causing ulcers or sores in the small and large intestines. Find out other solid reasons you should start eating more cranberries.

Black and blue cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows, star anise and cinnamonmmkarabella/Shutterstock

Hot cocoa

If you’re serving an after-dinner drink this season, skip the eggnog and serve up some hot cocoa instead. Cocoa has antioxidants called flavonoids, which are linked to the reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that cocoa has twice the number of antioxidants found in red wine and three times the amount in green tea.

Autumn Pumpkin Thanksgiving Background - orange pumpkins over wooden table.nelea33/Shutterstock

Pumpkin

There are a few catches here. Don’t resort to pumpkin spice-flavored food, which is synonymous with sugar in many cases. Instead, opt for 100-percent pure pumpkin and use it as a pasta sauce or tossed with some risotto (you can even substitute it for butter or oil in many baking recipes). Pumpkin has a high amount of fiber, which will help keep your digestive health humming while filling you up and reducing your calorie intake. In addition to keeping your weight steady pumpkin is packed with beta-carotene, and a recent study published in Scientific Reports found that a diet with beta-carotene lowered the risk of all-cause mortality. Here are 20 savory pumpkin dishes to make this holiday season.

Wicker tray with variety of raw mushrooms on wooden tableAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Mushrooms

Go ahead and grab a couple of stuffed mushrooms at the app table during your next party (emphasis on a couple, especially when it comes to what they are stuffed with). Mushrooms are a source of vitamin D, according to a study published in Dermato Endocrinology, which we can often be deficient in during the colder, darker winter months. Similar to cauliflower, mushrooms are also a plant-based protein and have a low fat content, while also containing antioxidants like selenium, which is responsible for immune system support and preventing cell and tissue damage. Keep this guide of healthy holiday foods to help you beat belly bloat this party season.

Colleen Travers
Colleen Travers is a metrics-driven digital writer and editor specializing in fitness, health, wellness and beauty. She's savvy in content strategy and creating timely, buzzworthy content on anything from the hottest fitness trends to breaking down the latest health research into easy, digestible tips to live better today.