December boasts a plethora of holidays-most of which are well known and celebrated all over.

While December hosts Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve, this month is also National Fruitcake Month and National Eggnog Month.

Fruitcake is a delicious treat enjoyed around the holidays and has been enjoyed for thousands of years.

Ancient Egyptians buried loved ones with fruitcakes, as they believed a fruitcake was necessary for the long journey to the afterlife.

Christian Crusaders took fruitcakes as they travelled for religious warfare because the cake could withstand the long trips and would not spoil.

What exactly is in a fruitcake? Fruitcakes are typically made with nuts, dried cherries, cranberries, brown sugar, flour, eggs, cinnamon, molasses and occasionally rum.

When the fruitcake is soaked with alcohol, such as rum, the cake can last for years. In 2003, a man sampled a fruitcake originally baked in 1878 and kept as a family heirloom without any health complications.

Fruitcake, while it contains fruit and nuts, is not necessarily the healthiest of holiday desserts.

Try choosing dried fruits which are not coated in sugar, replacing the butter with applesauce, using only egg whites and using your favorite sugar alternative. Of course, omitting the alcohol will curb calories as well.

Eggnog is one of the most popular holiday beverages consumed in December — the “official” celebration day is Dec. 24. Eggnog typically becomes available in stores around Thanksgiving time and is scarce after New Year’s.

The word eggnog comes from a Middle English word meaning a small, wooden carved mug used to serve alcohol; as for the drink itself, there is quite the debate as to when and where it originated.

While eggnog is a tasty holiday drink, it is very high in calories and fat.

One cup of eggnog contains approximately 350 calories and has about 18 grams of fat. While many versions of eggnog exist, typically it is made from cream, milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Many stores carry light egg nog and soy-based egg nog, which is lower in calories and fat. If you make your own eggnog, use low-fat milk and consider healthier alternatives to whole eggs such as Egg Beaters.

The holiday season only comes once a year, so enjoy a slice of fruit cake and a cup of eggnog; however, be mindful of portion sizes and healthy cooking alternatives to keep the month of December happy and healthy.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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