Christmas Day doesn’t have to be a complete eating-guilt-fest. We aren’t talking stuffing your face with chocolates for breakfast, or having that third stuffing sandwich after a few glasses of wine - we are talking the main meal.
You’d be surprised how healthy most of Christmas dinner actually is. We got the lowdown from nutritional therapist Francesca Liparoti from FL Nutrition on what is really in your festive feast.
She said: “If you want to keep Christmas dinner healthy then I suggest making your plate higher on the protein and vegetable side than potatoes as they do have a high glycemic load that can raise blood sugar levels quite high rather quickly.
“That increases insulin production and leads to weight gain, not to mention causing the energy slump that shortly follows the average festive dinner.”
Francesca offered her assessment of some common Christmas foods to help you decide what to indulge in.
It is a great source of lean protein, (around 30g of protein in 100g of meat), which means it can help keep our post-Christmas dinner insulin levels within a desirable range.
Turkey is rich in Vitamin B6, B12, B2 and B3. The B vitamins are super important for energy production as well as our neurotransmitter communication, which affects our mental health. It also provides zinc (affects our immunity, reproduction, skin health and vision) and choline (good for brain health and energy function).
Potatoes are a good source of Vitamin B6, potassium, copper, Vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, fibre, and pantothenic acid.
However, because they are a starchy vegetable they can affect our blood sugar level more than non-starchy vegetables will, so don’t go overboard.
ALSO ONLINE: Why Christmas is the perfect time to diet
Goose fat (for the potatoes)
Saturated fat has been demonised over the last few centuries but slowly and surely mainstream health and media is accepting we got it all wrong and some saturated fat in the diet is beneficial (and essential in my opinion).
Cooking with saturated fat is far better than cooking with delicate oils like extra virgin olive oil, so these two bits of info give you a great reason to cook your potatoes in goose fat.
They will taste amazing and you can sleep at night knowing you’ve done the right thing. Don’t go overboard though.
These babies are just great, they are a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables which means they help support our liver do its job properly and may have cancer preventing properties.
They contain Vitamin K, which is really important for bone health, Vitamin C, folate (the best form of folic acid), manganese, and fibre.
Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene and fibre.
They are also a good source of important antioxidant nutrients like Vitamin C and Vitamin A. You’ll also get some Vitamin K, Vitamin B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.
These are also a starchy vegetable, so, like potatoes, don’t go overboard.
Pigs in blankets
Go for good quality bacon and sausage meat.
They can provide some protein to help balance your blood sugar from the start of the day so that the Bucks Fizz that follows won’t affect your body as much as it would without protein.
However go easy on these as they’re high in salt and processed meat which isn’t the healthiest way to get protein.
Stuffing is basically a blend of onion, herbs, stale breadcrumbs and usually pork, or sausage meat, and Christmas dinner isn’t the same without it.
So enjoy it on the day but avoid if you are gluten intolerant or celiac.
Keep these to a minimum as they are loaded with starchy carbs and will rapidly spike blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling whacked after dinner and not helping your waistline.
If you’re making your own and you like to use the juices from the meat then you’re onto a winner – as I said before research is showing that animal fat is a beneficial source of saturated fat, as long as the majority of your diet is made up of clean and real foods.
Be warned pre-made sauces like Bisto will usually contain added artificial ingredients that aren’t so great, so making your own is best if you can.
Christmas dinner positives and negatives in a flash:
- What to really avoid? – Yorkshires and overloading on potatoes.
- What’s really good? – Turkey, Brussels sprouts and other green veggies, with some carrot and parsnip.
Francesca’s favourite: “I’ll have turkey, Brussels sprouts, other green veggies, some carrot and parsnips, one or two roast potatoes and gravy.
“Then I’d drink red wine and or Champagne and keep myself hydrated by sipping water all day.”