Healthy Living

Fa La La La Food: How Healthy are the Foods We Sing About?

Dec. 12, 2018

Whether you’re more like the Grinch or Buddy the Elf, you’ll probably catch some holiday music this time of year. And many of those songs mention food.

Registered Dietitian Sue Czap chimes in on the health benefits of these musically minded munchies.

poached pears with star anise
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose...

(The Christmas Song)

Compared to other nuts, chestnuts have more carbohydrate and less fat. They also contain fiber and potassium. And you won’t need an open fire to enjoy them. Cook for Your Life provides tasty recipes for chestnut soup and chestnut-stuffed sweet potatoes that are worth checking out.

Gather round the table, we'll give you a treat, Sevivonim to play with and latkes to eat…

(Hanukkah, Oh, Hanukkah)

White potatoes often get a bad rap, but they contain potassium and carbohydrates that our bodies need. Eat the skins and you get dietary fiber, too. For a nutritional twist on the traditional latke, making them with sweet potatoes or carrots would be delicious – and they’d come packed with important beta carotene. Check out these ideas, also from Cook for Your Life. One recipe here calls for turmeric, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

What’s a latke without toppings? Try garnishing them with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, to save a few calories. Or opt for applesauce, another common topping—homemade from locally grown apples or pre-made applesauce without added sugar—as a healthy, delicious option.

Now bring us some figgy pudding, And a cup of good cheer...

(We Wish You a Merry Christmas)

We may have heard or sung these words, but few of us in the U.S. actually know what figgy pudding is or have tried it. Although we may not be familiar with this dessert, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to incorporate more figs into our holiday treats because they contain dietary fiber, potassium, iron and calcium.

Figs pair well with cheeses and nuts as an appetizer. In our Cooking for Wellness class, we’ve also used them to make a cooked dried fruit compote, which is great for topping hot, whole-grain cereals in the winter.

You could also add chocolate fig bites to your holiday cookie spread.

It doesn’t show signs of stopping, and I’ve brought some corn for popping…

(Let It Snow)

Popcorn can be a healthy treat, as long as you don’t smother it in butter and salt or cook it in oil. Luckily, air poppers are coming back in style and they provide a healthy way to make popcorn without added fat. You can also prepare plain popcorn on the stove. Either way, season it with your favorite spice combination, making it salty or sweet. If you need ideas, try chai-spiced popcorn or rosemary-olive-oil popcorn.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree...

(The Twelve Days of Christmas)

Spare the partridge but don’t pass up the pears. They’re incredibly versatile and underrated this time of year, and they make a delicious and healthy addition to any meal. Pears pack dietary fiber and potassium and, poached with ginger, you’ll get the added benefits of a spice known to help fight nausea and inflammation. Try adding cinnamon or star anise for different flavor profile, or poach the pears in pomegranate juice and they’ll become a festive red color.


Registered dietitian Sue Czap


Sue Czap is a registered dietitian and a board certified specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She teaches a monthly wellness cooking class for cancer survivors and works primarily from Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Pluta location.