Can Christmas day food be healthy?

It’s Christmas time again: the time of over indulgence, hangovers and the inevitable weight gain. Without wishing to put a downer on the festive season jollities, it doesn’t have to be too unhealthy a time.

Believe it or not most of the food we eat on Christmas day is actually good for you; it’s how you eat it and the excessive amounts that we in the rich western world force upon ourselves. A sensible sized plate of food and taking it easy on the booze can have its benefits.

Turkey; a low fat bird providing a source of lean protein, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, niacin, choline and the amino acid tryptophan (good for sleep). The white meat is lower in fat in comparison to the brown and by taking the skin off after cooking you can save a good 40 calories (perfect if you are watching that waist line). Avoid the temptation to fill it with butter under the skin and a ton of sausage and chestnut stuffing which will be full of fat. Make a stuffing of cranberries, chestnut and orange, lower in calories and full of flavour.

Personally I bone out the legs and stuff them, wrap them in foil and bake them letting the fat run out at the end of cooking. Easy to cook and serve. As for the bird; set it in a tray over onion, carrot and herbs. Fill the cavity with lemon, sage, onion and seasoning cover the tray with foil add a little water and let it steam and roast.

What about the piles of veggies you are going to load onto that plate full of goodness?

The humble sprout is personally one of my favourites; I will eat them every day given the chance. If you can resist the urge to boil the life out of them then they are a perfect little nutri-bomb, a source of both folate (a B vitamin) and vitamin C with the added bonus of fibre. Good for the heart and digestion.

Just try and keep them low fat. Boil them for no more than 3 minutes, when they turn bright green then take them out of the water. Forget the butter put in a few chestnuts, lemon zest, juice and some fresh herbs.

Potatoes; A great source of carbohydrate (although personally I opt for sweet potato), just try and lay off the goose fat and other oils which they soak up like a sponge and boom your calories have gone up another notch or five.

Try a simple baked potato, not very Christmassy maybe but good for you all the same.

Carrots; We all know the benefits of carrots? Best known for the vitamin A contained within but did you know they are also full of Vitamin C, K, B8 pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper and manganese. Not forgetting fibre.

Red cabbage; Take a look at the colouring when you eat this you know full well you are in for a healthy treat. The colour tells you its full of disease fighting antioxidants which can only serve to make you feel good.

Parsnips; Like the carrot, parsnips are full of vitamins and minerals, folate, potassium, vitamin C and also fibre rich. Let’s keep them healthy and steam them to help keep that waist line ripped!

Cranberries; Are little bursts of vitamins C, E and fibre. Great berries but a little tart for most palettes making us reach for the sugar bowl. Try exchanging sugar for a little honey, stevia or coconut sugar instead. Add the berries to fresh orange juice and zest with cinnamon, nutmeg and your chosen sweetener, remember less is more.

Nuts; Always around at Christmas yet often totally abused, left to rot on the side as no one can be bothered to crack a shell. Come on that’s all part of your natural training, hunt, gather and prepare. They are a great source of omega 3, calcium, vitamin E and selenium, depending on which variety you choose. But just remember they are high in fat and therefore calories.

Chocolate; who in their right mind can refuse chocolate (sorry to offend any non-chocolate lovers?) but if you are going to indulge opt for the 70%+ dark chocolate option. Avoid the tinned sweets that come in at 40-50kcal each. You could potentially eat four or five squares from a dark bar at around 100 kcals all in while at the same time taking on a little extra in the form of nutrients, a win-win situation.

Finally there is the good old Christmas pudding full of dried fruit so yes full of sugar too. It is a source of fibre and B vitamins coupled with potassium, iron and calcium. Relatively low in fat but high in carbohydrates so go for a small portion, if you want to bring the calories down a little more then use Greek yoghurt instead of cream and brandy butter. Make a low fat version custard using semi -skimmed milk.

All in all a healthy meal, but like I said it’s how you treat the food that can make or break the waistline.      

 Enjoy Christmas, just remember, too much of a good thing has a tendency to give a little in return. All that booze, cake, mince pies and chocolate with a ton of calories will add to that ever expanding waist.