Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Healthy Holiday Snacks and Treats

The wonderful holiday season is in full swing! There are parties with snacks and treats and more treats looming all around us. So much of our culture revolves around food that it's easy to get caught up in the holidays and gorge ourselves on unhealthy food. This post is dedicated to ideas for healthy holiday snacks and treats that we can use instead. Here are some ideas:

1. Fruit! Fruit is delicious and contains many healthful benefits as well. Vitamins and minerals are found in fresh fruits that help us ward off colds and other ailments that are prevalent during the cold months. Our family favorites during the holidays include: Pears, Oranges, Apples, Bananas, Tangerines and more. There's nothing like a fresh, juicy, sweet pear for curbing a sweet tooth. Ripe pears are about as good as "treats" get. Many people get impatient and eat pears before they are ripe. Often grocery stores sell them green, hard and unripe. If you wait a week or two the payoff is well worth it! As they ripen, pears become a taste of heaven!

2. Nuts! There are so many different kinds of delicious nuts. The best choices for nuts are those without all the salt and oil and junk on them. After you get used to the flavor of raw nuts, you'll find that the salt and oil is completely unnecessary. Raw nuts contain essential fats that are healthy and have many anti-cancer properties. Many studies show that eating a handful of nuts every day is beneficial to our health. Some of our favorites are walnuts, almonds and of course peanuts. You can buy them shelled or enjoy the fun of shelling them yourself. If you're looking for a snack, raw or low-salted nuts are a good choice!

3. Dehydrated fruit & leathers - another great way to curb a sweet tooth! Some of our favorites include dried apricots & apples, raisins, dates, applesauce leather, peach leather and yogurt leather (That's right! you can dehydrate yogurt and it makes a very tasty treat!)

4. Popcorn - don't waste your money and calories on the microwave varieties which are high in additives, fat and sodium. Make your own using an old fashioned popcorn popper! Then you can limit the amount of butter and salt you add and it really doesn't take that much more time!

5. When doing your holiday baking, try to stay away from white flour as much as possible. Freshly ground whole grains are delicious in cookies, brownies, cakes, muffins, nut breads and more. Your family and guests won't notice and they'll appreciate your effort to include whole grains into treats that they love.

I was short on time and needed to bring a treat to a party a few nights ago. I only had 20 minutes to make it so I went with rice crispy treats. The only healthy thing I had time to do was pop 2 tablespoons of amaranth (a small white grain that is delicious when popped) and add it to the rice crispy recipe. It is white when popped so completely invisible with the white rice crispy treats. No one knew the difference and they turned out really good. Little things like that are examples of how you can add health to very basic recipes.

6. When doing holiday cooking and baking, use other healthy substitutions listed in a previous post. You can cut down on fat and sugar in many recipes without noticing a difference in taste.

I'd love to hear comments - post any ideas you have for healthy, snacks and treats. What healthy snacks do your family eat during the holidays?

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