Nutrition experts reckon that the average food and drink intake on Christmas day could add up to a staggering 6,000 calories! And whilst it’s true that much of this comes in the form of sugary desserts and snacks (mince pies, Christmas pudding…) and calorie-laden alcoholic drinks, there are also some seriously nutritious aspects too.
Most people eat excess over Christmas, we’ve all got our favourite must haves, if it’s only for a day or two, don’t worry. I see so many people worrying how they are going to manage their diets. What can they eat to keep their calories down? Stress is just as bad on the body as poor food choices, if you want to have one or two days of less heathy food choices try not to worry, a walk after a meal will help to regulate the blood sugar, alternate your alcoholic drinks with a soft drink – preferably not high sugar fruit juice, water / fruit teas are the best alternative if you are drinking more alcohol/ coffee than usual since both these drinks are dehydrating. On your plate pile it high with veg, or use a smaller plate so you are having smaller amounts but not depriving yourself of any of the tasty treats.
Christmas day in Susan’s house is normally a late breakfast and then the main meal of the day sometime between 2 and 3, with sandwiches on offer at supper for the teenagers who are never full. Traditions play a big part in the Christmas food, but the meat of choice is chosen each year by a different person, so turkey is not a regular option, this year its a game roulade.
The breakfast which we have at every major celebration is eggs benedict – with salmon, this is a good source of protein to start the day which helps keep you fuller for longer and stops you dipping into that box of chocolates. On Christmas day it is normally served with a glass of orange juice (with perhaps some added fizz), the vitamin C in the orange juice helps the body absorb the iron.
Staying with tradition, the teenagers like the same starter every Christmas, so it’s prawn cocktail in Susan’s house. Prawns are even lower in calories and fat than chicken yet with much more protein. As well as being high in protein, prawns contain magnesium, which plays a role in bone development and nerve and muscle function; Zinc, which is good for growing bodies, and selenium, an important antioxidant, add in some shredded lettuce for some extra goodness and wholemeal bread for fibre and B vitamins, quite a balanced starter.
On to the main event, by having roasted parsnips and potatoes, the fat content lowers the GI level and slows down the rate at which they raise blood sugar so while higher in calories, it can be beneficial to eat them roasted and limit your portion of starchy sugary veg.
Parsnips – Parsnips are rich in potassium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, folate and phosphorous. It is also an excellent source of fibre, as well as vitamins B, C, E and K,
Sprouts are a superfood and have many nutritional benefits so pile them on to your plate – This food is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Folate, Copper and Manganese. They also contain powerful glucosinolate phytonutrients, which support the body’s detoxification enzymes, helping to clear potentially carcinogenic substances from the body more quickly.
Broccoli – It is a very good source of dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium and copper. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and selenium.
Cauliflower – Is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of choline, dietary fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin.
Turkey Breast –
The good: This food is low in Saturated Fat. It is also a good source of Riboflavin and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein and Selenium.
The bad: This food is high in Cholesterol, and very high in Sodium.
The dark meat normally has more calories and fat per 100g.
Nut roast – While normally higher in calories than a meat alternative, the calories are beneficial fats and they are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Since nut roasts vary considerably depending on ingredients, there will be good quality roasts with higher % of nuts and some that are more breadcrumb/ loaf than nuts. A slice of a good quality nut roast will provide protein, good source of Vitamin A, C, E, copper, folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium and thiamine.
Christmas pudding – Topped with a dollop of brandy cream, these are not seen as healthy, but if you can find a pudding that is packed with fruit and nuts and less carbohydrate, limit the cream you can gets some benefit from the fruit and fibre in the pudding- lots of dried fruit is not recommended for those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes due to the effect on blood sugar so small portion of pudding only.
These can help head off high blood pressure, provide energy-boosting iron and are rich in protective antioxidants.
Like raisins, sultanas are dried grapes and share many of their health benefits including potassium and iron. Sultanas are a source of calcium, magnesium and manganese which strengthen bones and help head off osteoporosis
With four times the immune-boosting vitamin C of oranges, several studies suggest currants can help combat winter sniffles by inhibiting the flu virus, reducing inflammation in the airways and boosting levels of friendly gut bacteria that strengthen the immune system.