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Ring in the New Year with Traditional Foods

December 30, 2014 by Sophia Baker-French, Registered Dietitian

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The New Year comes just after Winter Solstice. For many, it’s a time of celebration, reflection, and renewal. Cultures around the world celebrate the New Year with traditional foods that hold special meaning for the year to come. The dietitian in me relishes that so many of these foods are extremely nutritious.

I’ve put together a list from all corners of the world, but would love to hear about the healthy traditional foods that make an appearance at your family gatherings if they’re missing.

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year! Cheers.

Type of food Description Related Recipes and Information
Green leafy vegetables In some parts of the world, green leafy veggies like kale, collards, cabbage, and chard represent bills of money. So…The more you eat, the more wealth the New Year brings! Popular on the New Year’s menu is kale in Denmark, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) in Germany, and collard greens in the U.S. Five Ways to Cook Dark Leafy Greens offers ideas for how to prepare green leafy veggies.

Super-Kale-Fragilistic has a great recipe for kale chips.
Grapes In Spain and several Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Peru, 12 grapes are eaten at the stroke of midnight. The flavour of each grape is believed to offer a forecast for a month of the year. Store It! A guide to storing fresh vegetables and fruit has some great pointers for extending the life of fresh vegetables and fruit.
Pomegranate In Greek mythology this beautiful red fruit symbolizes wealth and prosperity for the coming year. Pomegranates go well on salads and yogurt or as a crunchy snack.
Round fruit In the Philippines, families fill their New Year’s eve tables with round fruit to bring fortune and prosperity. Read more about What Makes Vegetables and Fruit So Special
Lentils For some cultures New Year’s lentils are traditional. In Brazil its lentil soup, while in Italy it is cotechino con lenticchie, a lentil stew with pork sausage, and in Japan it is kuro-mame, a sweet black lentil dish. Here are a couple great recipes using lentils:
Curried vegetable lentil stew
Salmon on veggie and leek lentils
Black Eyed Peas In the South of the United States eating black eyed-peas for New Year symbolizes humility and a prosperous year to come. For information on how to Knock the Wind Out of your Beans read Kenton’s blog.
Fish Eating fish in the New Year is popular in many countries. Some believe that the scales represent coins, and others that schools of swimming fish represent forward momentum. In Scandinavia, pickled herring is eaten at midnight on December 31. Try a BC New Year fish dish using the salmon cooking tips in Why Salmon Should make it on your Menu.
Pork In many countries such as Austria and Hungary, pork symbolizes richness, prosperity and happiness at the New Year. Lean cuts of pork can be tasty and healthy. Read about meat and meat alternatives in Meat and Alternatives- be Wary of Portion Distortion.
Soba (buckwheat) noodles In Japan tochikoshi soba noodles symbolize longevity when eaten at midnight on December 31st. The longer the noodles, the better. Most soba noodles contain gluten. Read Gluten-Free Whole Grains for information on buckwheat.
Ring shaped bread or cakes The year comes full circle with Mexico’s traditional rosca de reyes and Greece’s vasilopita. A coin or trinket is baked into these goodies brining luck to the person who find its. Try baking these with whole grain wheat flour to add a rich nutty flavour and to boost nutrients and fibre. Dean has a great blog about making healthy baked goods called Better Baking.
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