Fruit Punches Sparkle with Health Protection

Punches can be a chance to get creative. Mix up a warming drink, like hot apple cider diluted with an equal amount of ginger-flavored tea and spiced cinnamon for "wassail," a word derived from the Norse phrase, "Be in good health."

If making a cold punch, unsweetened frozen and thawed fruits, like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries are usually packaged with some juice and can be pureed in a blender to use as punch ingredients. Dilute them with other club soda and 100% juice.

The following recipes use just a few nutritious, low-sugar ingredients to make delicious drinks guests may like even more than the usual bar fare.

Pomegranate-Apricot Sparkler

Tangy pomegranate juice is full of phytochemicals and makes a perfect base for a dazzling holiday punch.

1 1/2 cups cold pomegranate juice
1 1/2 cups apricot nectar
1 cup cold seltzer, lime-flavored if desired
1 fresh lime, quartered or kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced (optional)

In large pitcher, combine first 3 ingredients. Pour into ice-filled glasses. Garnish each glass with lime or kiwi wedge, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 105 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 27 g carbohydrates, <1 g protein, <1 g dietary fiber, 14 mg sodium.

Holiday Citrus Punch

This refreshing punch looks pretty on the table and is loaded with Vitamin C.

4 cups orange juice
2 cups 100% cranberry juice
4 cups sparkling water or club soda
1 orange, sliced horizontally into 1/4-inch slices
1 lime, sliced horizontally into 1/4-inch slices

In large punch bowl, combine juices and sparkling water or soda. Float orange and lime slices on top and serve.

Makes 20 servings (1/2 cup each).

Per serving: 33 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 8 g carbohydrates, <1 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 1 mg sodium.

Sparkling Grape Party Punch

This punch provides the phytochemical resveratrol from grapes as an alternative to red wine.

1 bottle (46 oz.) 100% grape juice
1 bottle (25 oz.) sparkling apple-grape juice
4-6 cups sparkling spring water
1-1 1/2 cups 100% orange juice
2-4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 thin lemon slices
4 thin orange slices
2 cups frozen grapes

Make sure all beverages are cold. Pour grape juice, sparkling apple grape juice, sparkling spring water, orange juice and lemon juice into large punch bowl. Add ice, if desired.  Top with lemon slices, orange slices and grapes.

Makes 16 servings.

Per serving: 91 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 22 g carbohydrates, <1 g protein, <1 g dietary fiber, 10 mg sodium.

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