Celebrate the holiday season with a colorfully healthy twist

As we enter into winter, many cultures around the world pay tribute to the shortest day of the year and the coming of the light. The time-honored observance of the winter solstice is closely tied with nature, the life-giving properties of the sun, family and connection. Traditionally, the food used for the festivities was far from healthy. By adapting the spirit of these gatherings with a modern approach, the festival of peace and light is transformed into a colorful (and guilt-free) celebration. To symbolize darkness and the return of sun-filled days, black, purple, orange and yellow edibles share the spotlight.

Healthy ideas for a vibrant holiday season

Black and purple foods host a variety of important nutrients. High in iron, antioxidants, and minerals, these foods are not only stunning, but also exceptionally healthy. Orange and yellow foods provide a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, niacin and folate along with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

A simple black rice pilaf is a unique addition to any celebration. Combine cooked rice with a citrus vinaigrette and garnish with segments of fresh mandarin along with roughly chopped pistachios. Black rice is higher than its white counterpart in many essential nutrients such as vitamin B, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Pistachios add a beneficial boost of antioxidants, and mandarins contribute vitamin C.

Roasted orange yams and heirloom purple potatoes tossed separately with Himalayan or Celtic sea salt,  along with chopped fresh rosemary, creates a striking contrast when presented together on a platter. Purple potatoes are an incredible source of the antioxidant anthocyanin which protects against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related memory loss.

Try halves of pitted fresh black plums sprinkled with coconut sugar and broiled for 1-2 minutes, flat-side up. Serve warm with a high-quality, agave sweetened coconut 'ice cream'. Black plums are a good source of flavonoids, a powerful phytochemical that helps prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and short-term memory loss. Coconut sugar is a guilt-free, low-glycemic sweetener.

A smooth curried pumpkin soup sprinkled with black sesame seeds and sliced green onions yields a colorful combination that brightens any holiday table. Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta-carotene, while turmeric has strong antioxidant properties. Black sesame seeds are an exceptional source of calcium along with protein, phosphorous, iron, and magnesium.

For an invigorating winter solstice cocktail, combine one-part chilled pure blueberry juice, one-part acai berry juice, and one-part soda water. Blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin E. These healthful berries also help to improve and protect brain function. Acai berries are a nutritional superfood, supplying an abundance of antioxidants while supporting cardiovascular health. Moreover, frequent consumption of these formidable berries provides protection against cancer.

Roasted acorn squash not only imparts a sunny color to the meal, but also has wonderful nutritional benefit. This beautiful vegetable is a good source of beta-carotene which helps support eye and colon health. Roast halves face down on a cookie sheet that has been lightly coated with coconut butter until fork tender, about 40 minutes at 375ºF. When ready to serve, slice each half into 2 wedges. Brush with pure maple syrup and melted coconut butter. Sprinkle with Himalayan or Celtic sea salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Top with unsweetened dried cranberries and finely grated orange zest.

As in the past, the feast of the winter solstice creates a joyful space for family, friends, and community to connect. Delight in a contemporary version of this tradition while encouraging a healthy vibrance.

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