‘Tis the season to feast

You’ll enjoy it even more if you know it’s good for you.

Enjoying the festive fare of the holiday season can certainly be a pleasurable annual ritual. But it’s one that can be long indeed, with plenty of both large parties and intimate gatherings. While nightly events can drain energy levels, there can also be a toll on health, even within a short period of time.

Instead, consider the benefits of moderation, along with some savvy party offerings. It seems the older you get, the smarter it may be to avoid overindulgence. It used to be that indigestion was its only consequence. But as arteries age, they’re less able to cope with a glut of fat consumed at one time. Think of healthy arteries as flexible, somewhat like a rubber tube. Aging can cause them to harden, making them less able to handle changes in blood flow that can occur following fatty meals. The result can be a heart attack or a stroke.

Including menu selections that can lessen this risk gives new meaning to “Eat, drink and be merry.” Fish dishes such as salmon, trout and tuna, which contain omega-3 fats, can offer a range of heart-health perks, such as reducing the risk of blood clots. Be sure to include fibre-rich choices like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes for additional artery-friendly action.

Here are some dishes that demonstrate delicious celebratory fare can go hand in hand with healthy eating.

Crostini With Goat Cheese and Roasted Tomatoes

For a creamy topping for the crostini, look for goat cheese with about 15 per cent milk fat (M.F.). Roasting the tomatoes intensifies their sweetness, making them a perfect flavourful and simple topping for the toasted bread. Both the toasted bread and tomatoes can be made earlier in the day and then the crostini assembled before serving. You can double or triple the recipe.

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes 500 ml

Pinch each salt and freshly ground pepper Pinch

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 10 ml

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed 3

16 1/2-inch (1 cm) slices baguette, preferably whole grain 16

Extra-virgin olive oil for crostini

3 oz soft goat cheese 90 g

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and place cut-side up on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil. Place garlic cloves on baking sheet between tomatoes. Roast at 325 F (160 C) for 1 hour.

Let cool.

Brush bread slices very lightly with olive oil and place in single layer on baking sheet. Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Spread roasted garlic lightly over each crostini; top with about 1 tsp (5 ml) goat cheese and 2 or 3 tomato halves and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Per-serving nutritional information: calories: 130; protein: 5 g; fat: 7 g; saturated fat: 2 g; carbohydrate: 16 g; dietary fibre: 5 g; sodium: 144 mg.

Black Bean Dip