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Dietitians Dish: Choose nutritious snack options during holidays

By Victoria Advocate
Dec. 13, 2011 at 6:13 a.m.

Lisa Hagan

By Lisa Hagan

The holidays can be a stressful time. We often neglect our nutrition. With all this activity, we cannot afford to neglect our immune systems. A high-calorie, low-nutrient food is the last thing that our stressed immune system needs. Eating too many poor quality foods can add to fatigue and put a stop to enjoying the holiday season.

Choosing foods that can help boost the immune system can help you keep going. There are many foods that can do this, foods that are easily available and loaded with nutrients. Adding these foods many be easier than you think.

Many fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid and phytonutrients. Fruits and vegetable are well known for their health benefits, yet they are the least eaten food. Add fruits and vegetables to all meals.

If you did not eat a fruit or vegetable with your meal, keep in mind that snacks are intended to complete a meal. Instead of chips, try carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers with a bean dip such as hummus, or a vegetable dip, such as low-fat spinach and artichoke dip.

Also, mushrooms are recognized as an immune-enhancing food. They are high in vitamin D. Slice fresh mushroom on salads, add to spaghetti sauce or stuff them.

There are a number of berries available year round, as well. Choose a favorite berry and dip them into dark chocolate. They are high in vitamin C and phytonutrients and can be stored in the refrigerator until they are ready to enjoy.

Orange juice is a rather good source of vitamin C, but a fresh orange is even better. The white portion inside of the orange known as the pith has phytonutrients that gives the body an extra healthy boost.

Tree nuts are plentiful this time of year, too. Put out a bowl full of tree nuts: walnuts, almonds and pecans. Tree nuts boost the immune system with a nutrient called Omega-3. Buy the nuts in the shell and use a nut cracker to prevent overeating. Nuts are high calorie packed with nutrients, so you do not need to eat too many to get the benefits.

Eating a variety of nutritious foods is important. Consuming a single nutrient can defeat the purpose of building the immune system because each immune-enhancing nutrient acts on the immune system in different ways.

Eating the same foods in excess can crowd out other important immune enhancing nutrients. So expand your repertoire and try many whole, colorful foods.

Lisa Hagan is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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