Christmas and Kwanzaa Foods: Safe or Scary?

Filed under: Opinions

gingerbread house

Gingerbread houses satisfy your sweet tooth and offer some health benefits. Credit: acheerkelly, Flickr

Thanksgiving is behind us, and since then many of us have been battling against potential repetitive motion injuries: Reaching for and plucking, again and again, hors d'oeuvres off of waiters' trays and holiday party buffet tables. Our kids, meanwhile, have been offered cookies and cakes at every turn. But the real gorge-fest hasn't even begun yet.

Get ready for the imminent Christmas and Kwanzaa feasts, and all the rich, fatty goodness they provide. But is it all bad? Are you and your kids doomed to suffer an empty-calorie, end-of-year bloat? Let's take a look at some of the traditional foods served during these holidays and see whether they're safe, or scary ...

VERDICT: Christmas Foods

The centerpiece of many a Christmas dinner, ham, if cured (and most are), contains nitrates, preservatives that have been found to significantly raise the risk of colon cancer. If you eat ham just at Christmas, then don't worry too much about it. But if the idea of consuming carcinogens creeps you out, then choose a fresh or dry-cured country ham, neither of which contains nitrates.

Eggnog: This sweet, creamy, eggy concoction can pack up to 460 calories per eight-ounce serving. And that's before you add any booze to it. So enjoy just one cup. Or better yet, half a cup. And go for homemade or an organic brand so that you're not downing high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings on top of it all.

Gingerbread: As desserts go, gingerbread isn't half bad. While there isn't a whole lot of it in a typical recipe, ginger has been found to contain cancer-fighting compounds. If there's icing and gumdrops stuck all over your gingerbread, though, well, it's no longer so healthy.

Fruitcake: Does anybody actually eat this stuff? If you're one of the few who do, rest easy knowing that there's nothing particularly terrible about fruitcake. Except the reaction it elicits when presented as a (re)gift.

VERDICT: Kwanzaa Foods

Fried Chicken: Home-cooked chicken can be a healthy dish, but bread it and deep-fry it and you're looking at a high-calorie, fatty meal. By all means eat some of it, but fill most of your plate with the healthier side dishes that may be part of the feast, like ...

Collard Greens: Collards are truly one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They're packed with fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, and B vitamins, and are low in calories (unless you throw pork or bacon into the pot). Indulge.

Black-Eyed Peas: A nutritious addition to a Kwanzaa celebration, black-eyed peas are high in fiber, magnesium, iron and folate, and are a good source of protein.

Sweet Potato Pie: A typical recipe includes lots of sugar, butter and cream, but hey, it's a pie, what do you expect? Thanks to the nutritional value of the sweet potatoes -- they're among the most nutrient-dense vegetables around -- this dessert is certainly a better choice than chocolate cake or donuts.

Jennifer Schonborn is a holistic nutrition counselor, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sign up for her newsletter and free consultation at

Related: More Safe or Scary?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.