Test Your Holiday Food IQ!

Friday, December 24, 2010 | 0 comments »

By DeLane McDuffie

Some people are literally scared of food. Yep. Believe it or not, some people dread the holiday season because they "know" they'll pig out and gain weight. Holiday food gets a bad rap. Food can't defend itself from folks grabbing it and munching on it. If this were a court of law, holiday food would need a character witness. Many of the good qualities of holiday food are underreported. Stand up and testify on behalf of the voiceless and defenseless, and match the holiday food with its understated trait(s).
  1. Sweet potato – Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes have come up a lot in recent articles that I've perused. That's probably because they're freakin' delicious. Growing up in the South, a group dinner could run the risk of being shut down if there were no sweet taters in, at least, a 5-mile radius of Grandma's kitchen. A baked sweet potato (with skin) contains a ridiculous 769 percent of the recommended daily value (RDA)** for vitamin A. In addition to being low in sodium, it also has 65 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. That's right! No scurvy for you!
  2. Pecans – Protein: Whether you pronounce it "pea-cans" or "puh-cahns," pecans are unsung heroes in the fight for food R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I've heard people vilify pecans because of their association with . . . um . . . pecan pie. As an advocate for pecan rights, I resent that statement. First of all, pecan pie is just that—pecan pie. Sugar's the enemy, not pecans. One cup of pecans contains 10 grams of protein, 42 percent of the RDA for fiber, 15 percent of the RDA for iron, and about one-third of the zinc that Uncle Sam recommends that you get on a daily basis. While their zinc battalion is helping your body fight off colds, pecans are also arming you with an arsenal of vitamins and minerals, and are also low in cholesterol and high in unsaturated fat. Take that, pecan (pie) haters!
  3. Milk and cookies – Fiber and vitamin D: Santa leaves a gift for you every year, right? Why not leave him a gift of your own? Instead of contributing to Santa's impending heart attack, why not slide him some heart-healthy food? Give the man a fighting chance. He's already breathing in smoke and fumes from all of that chimney exploring. Instead of those extra-sweet cookies that you usually bake for him, bust out some low-sugar oatmeal cookies. Fiber is his friend. Be his new Rudolph, and guide his sleigh to a new, healthier way of life. Don't forget the glass of milk. Make it low-fat or skim milk. A cup of milk has about 25 percent of the RDA for vitamin D, which is a scarce commodity, and is only naturally present in a few foods. That's like drinking sunshine.
  4. Fruitcake – Iron: Uh oh. I can hear you now: "How dare he bring up . . . fruitcake?" Yes, it is high in calories. But it doesn't have to be that way. One slice of fruitcake packs a respectable 11 percent of the RDA for iron. That's a start! As you know, the "fruit" part of a fruitcake is good for you—raisins, currants, cranberries, apricots, and cherries, just to name a few. But you can always make the "cake" part of a fruitcake more nutritious, too. Use egg substitutes instead of eggs. Use unsweetened applesauce. Don't use as much molasses this time around. Throw in some heart-healthy walnuts or some "chestnuts roasting on an open fire." Okay, I'm not so sure about the chestnuts. I've never tried it. But you can. That's the whole purpose of a fruitcake anyway. It's the palette of holiday culinary creativity.
  5. White Russian drink – Low fat: This holiday favorite has been known to give some holiday partiers an early exit. But if you're planning to make a grand exit of your own, you might as well do it with a little less guilt . . . and gut. I've seen White Russian recipes that have as much as 800 calories. Yolki! That's a whale of a drink. While you're mixing that 1-1/2 ounces of Kahlua or coffee liqueur and 1-1/2 ounces of vodka, try using 3 ounces of fat-free half-and-half, instead of that nice, thick whole milk or cream. Also, try substituting the 1-1/2 ounces of cola with a diet cola. That should cut down some of those calories and fat. And as always, drink in moderation. That way, the youngsters won't find you passed out under the tree on Christmas morning, drooling on the circuitry of their video game console.