Health & Spirit

Quinn on Nutrition: Food with a story

Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald on

Published in Nutrition

We seem to be looking for food with a story, I heard at a recent meeting of farmers and ranchers.

"Consumers want to know where their food comes from," the speaker explained. "And they want to know that it was produced humanely and sustainably."

Guess that's why I'm happy with the eggs from our neighbor's chickens. And the beef in my stew that was raised on my son-in-law's ranch. It helps me appreciate the care and attention that goes into the food we enjoy in this country.

Holiday foods come with some treasured stories as well. I'll be thinking about these as I travel to my native New Mexico this Christmas.

Gingerbread houses. What started a few years ago as a fun project with my grandkids has now become their holiday tradition with Grammy. I just have to monitor that 3-year old Logan gets more candy decorations onto his house than into his mouth.

Chocolate. Here's the story: Cocoa -- the fat-free part of a cocoa bean -- is rich in antioxidant substances that help protect the tissues of our bodies from damage. Look for products with a higher level of cocoa and you'll reap a higher level of these antioxidants. Dark chocolate generally has more antioxidant power than milk chocolate.

Luminarias. This story goes beyond food. If you're from New Mexico, you know these little candle-lit brown sacks that line walkways of entire neighborhoods were originally thought to light the way of the Christ-child into homes on Christmas Eve. This is my favorite tradition from the Land of Enchantment.

Eggnog. Since I was little girl a long, long time ago, the final touch on our Christmas Eve celebration -- after luminarias and candlelight church service -- was a cup of eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg before we headed to bed. Yes, eggnog is high in fat and sugar. That's why it's reserved for one special evening a year.

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Roast turkey in Mom's old roaster. My mom would be the first one up on Dec. 25 to make sure the bird in her trustworthy appliance was ready for Christmas dinner. My sister has Mom's well-used roaster now. And it continues to make our Christmas meal memorable.

Oranges. Great stocking stuffers and high in vitamin C and dietary fiber to keep us thriving through the holidays. A common story in our house was what happened when these goodies and the candy canes left by Santa were accidentally left in the bottom of our Christmas stockings. Let's just say oranges are best when removed from stockings, peeled and eaten.

As we know, the real story of this season isn't about food. It's about the God-given Gift born in that lonely stable on Christmas so many, many years ago. That's a story truly worth celebrating. Have a Merry Christmas.

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of "Quinn-Essential Nutrition" (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to

(c)2017 The Monterey County Herald

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