Eat, drink, and be merry! As that clarion call of the holiday season rings out across the land, we cast our usual caution aside and enjoy the rich eggnog, the salty snacks, the fried treats and cookies and cupcakes and traditional holiday breads that appear every December like clockwork.
But holiday feasting doesn’t all have to be “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips.” There are actually some festive foods that add value to the diet – by increasing your calcium and/or vitamin D intake. Check out five of my favorite bone-healthy holiday treats.
Did I hear someone offer me a glass of eggnog? There’s nothing like the rich, thick creaminess, the distinctive nutmeg/rum flavor of this traditional holiday drink. And guess what? If you choose light (reduced calorie) eggnog, you won’t sacrifice any flavor (I promise), and you’ll be getting 15% of your daily calcium requirement – in natural, not supplement form. One caveat: don’t guzzle this stuff; even the light version is calorie-heavy. A half-cup serving (size-wise, think a small glass of wine) is the perfect size for sipping.
Not into eggnog? Try an orange juice/vanilla yogurt smoothie enhanced with a touch of vanilla extract. Yogurt and fortified OJ both offer a lot of calcium.
In many Italian households, it’s just not Christmas without ricotta pie, Italy’s answer to New York’s deli cheesecake. One slice of ricotta pie packs an amazing 337mg calcium – more than 25% of your daily requirement. Plus, the eggs in this light and flavorful cheesecake/pie add vitamin D, calcium’s best friend. Make it with a crust including ground almonds (Nature’s highest-calcium nut), and you’re golden – just like the rich filling in this pie. Check out my favorite recipe for Ricotta Pie.
Not a baker? You can still enjoy ricotta cheese. Remember the South Beach diet? I followed it for a year or so, and revert to it whenever I want to lose a few pounds. And there’s one part of it I’ve never quit: their suggestion for a simple ricotta dessert. Scoop ½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese into a bowl. Sweeten to taste. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Simple. Easy. Ridiculously tasty. And calcium-rich.
Speaking of almonds, many types of nuts are good for you There’s evidence they lower cholesterol and improve heart health, and they’re packed with the “good” fats your body needs, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the FDA has approved a heart-health claim for almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some types of pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts.
Of the FDA-approved nuts above, almonds are highest in calcium, with 72mg per ounce (about 20 to 24 nuts). About 1 ½ ounces per day offers heart-healthy benefits – though remember, nuts are high in calories, so you need to figure them into your daily diet, not just eat them by the handful. (2011, Hamel)