By Kaley Todd, MS, RDN
Enjoy the holiday season tomato style!
Too often the hustle and bustle of the holiday season leaves us undernourished, sleep-deprived, and stressed. As we are thinking of others during this time of thanks and joy, it is also important to think of ourselves. We tend to sacrifice health and good eating to make sure turkeys are stuffed, presents are wrapped, the tree is trimmed, and gifts are bought. Planning ahead and making sure you have a well-stocked kitchen this time of year is essential to help put effortless nutritious and delicious meals on the table in minutes. In addition to spices and herbs, an ingredient that deserves a spot in your pantry are canned tomato products.
Embrace this ingredient as your “elf on the shelf” this holiday season. Not only are they red and already shouting the holiday season, but they also provide numerous vitamins and minerals, and are rich in the antioxidant lycopene. In fact, lycopene in processed tomatoes is much better absorbed than that of fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes can boost the nutrition in dishes, as well as save time in the kitchen. Make your New Year’s resolution early this year, and vow to take care of yourself this holiday season.
Here are some timesaving cooking tips the ”tomato elf” has developed to help promote good eating, as well as sanity this crazy time of year.
SUPER SOUPS: What better time to enjoy soups than during the chilly holiday winter season. In addition to being comforting, soups can be nutrient-packed and are a great way to use up vegetables you have in the fridge. Make a big batch when you have time over the weekend. and enjoy it for lunch or for a quick and easy dinner after a long day of holiday shopping. Looking for inspiration? Try this vegetable chicken soup or classic tomato soup for a quick and easy meal that is sure to soothe the soul and nourish the body after a busy day.
HOLIDAY MEAL SWAP: The holiday season is a great excuse to have get-togethers. However, too often they revolve around cookies, alcohol, and other indulgences. Why not inspire a new type of get-together that is a healthier party and will offer you and your friends the gift that keeps on giving? Organize a holiday meal swap where everyone brings a casserole to share. Have to-go containers ready so you and your friends can divide the remaining leftovers for future dinners that can easily be reheated. Try this awesome garden patch lasagna for a nutritious and delicious dish to contribute and wow your friends.
TAKE IT SLOW: The go, go, go of this festive time of year can be stressful and take a toll on our mind and bodies. In addition to going to yoga, taking time to de-stress with a walk and getting adequate sleep, embrace the slow cooker. You can prep the meal early in the morning (before stores have opened) and let it do the work for you until dinner. For a unique twist to an American classic, try this Asian meatloaf and let the slow cooker do the work.
SANDWICH SUPPER: There is no reason sandwiches can only be enjoyed at lunch. Sandwiches are quick, easy, delicious and can be nutritious with the right ingredients. After a day of facing the chill and cold of the winter, a warm sandwich is a welcomed treat. Make sandwich night an interactive event in your household by pulling out the griddle pan or panini press and design a make-your-own sandwich bar. Tomato sauce or paste is a delicious spread and compliments cheese, vegetables and a variety of meats.
POWER BREAKFAST: Breakfast is often the least of our worries this time of year and too often consists of a cup of coffee and a holiday cookie. Making sure you and your family start the day on the right nutritional note is critical for keeping blood sugar levels stable, energy up and promoting good mood and overall health. It can also help keep you full and nourished, and prevent binging on holiday treats later in the day. Start your day off on the right note with this Zesty Tomato Smoothie.
TOMATO TREATS: There is no reason holiday treats have to be sweet and full of sugar. Instead of bringing cookies to your holiday festivity, consider wowing the guests with a tomato appetizer. Tomato Basil Hummus is the perfect dip to bring with your favorite crudité or dippers and will please those of all ages. Bonus: Make festive recipe cards that people can take with them since you will be asked for the recipe!
HELPING HANDS: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is the perfect time to involve all members in the household to contribute to dinnertime. In fact, often kids want to help and contribute. This is a great time to involve them in figuring out menus and teaching them about good cooking and eating. Involve the little ones in making these Pizza Quesadillas. They can help add the tomato sauce and their favorite toppings. For an even healthier version, use whole-wheat tortillas for the “crust.”
Pass it on!