From the traditional roast turkey and pigs in blankets, to mince pies and Christmas pudding, the festive period is an opportunity to indulge in our favourite Christmas foods. While this can often lead to consuming a lot of extra calories, fats and sugar, some of the classic festive foods are actually heathier than you think! Here are 5 healthy festive foods that you could be a good addition to your traditional Christmas dinner this year.
Turkey is a type of poultry that has leaner and less fatty meat than other meats and is often the centrepiece of a traditional Christmas dinner.
- Turkey is an excellent source of protein, providing all the essential amino acids we need for growth and repair.
- Turkey is a good source of vitamin B3, B6 and B12 which we need for energy production, brain function and red blood cells formation.
- Turkey can also support our thyroid function, immunity and bone health because it is rich in minerals such as selenium, zinc, phosphorus and iron.
- Studies have shown that replacing red meat with poultry can reduce cardiovascular risk.
Roasted parsnips are one of the most popular Christmas dinner trimmings. Soft, fragrant and slightly sweet, they add a warm and comforting element to the roast dinner but are also very nutritious.
- Parsnips have a good vitamin C content which is important in cell function, skin health, blood vessels health and bones and cartilages health.
- They also contain good levels of folate (known as vitamin B9) which may play a role in reducing heart disease and may help prevent dementia and osteoporosis.
- Parsnips are also high in fibre which can help digestion and prevent constipation. Eating fibre rich foods may also lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
- In term of minerals, parsnips are a good source of copper which helps our body produce cells and has a role moving oxygen around the body.
Roasted carrots can also be a favourite when it comes to Christmas dinner trimmings. Carrots come from the same vegetable family as parsnips and have some shared health properties including the high fibre content. But carrots also contain beta-carotene which gives them the vibrant orange colour and transforms into vitamin A in the body.
- Vitamin A plays an important role in keeping our immune system functioning well, fighting against illnesses and infections.
- What’s more, vitamin A is vital for a healthy vision. It is converted into purple pigment in our retinas and this helps us see in dim light.
- Our skin also needs vitamin A to keep healthy. Beta-carotene has antioxidant properties and may help keep our skin elastic and young-looking.
Brussels sprouts might not be everyone’s favourite food on the Christmas dinner table, but their health benefits definitely exceed their reputation!
- Part of the cabbage family, brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables which have been linked to a reduced risk of several types of cancer by inducing beneficial cancer-fighting compounds.
- Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C. Only one cooked brussels sprout can provide you with an incredible 29% of your daily dose of vitamin C.
- They are very low in calories and have minimal amounts of fat.
- Brussels sprouts are packed with vitamin K which is essential in blood clotting and can help with bone health.
So why do these healthy vegetable have such a bad reputation? It might be down to the way they’re prepared. Cooked the wrong way, they can turn soggy and bitter. Cooked properly however, brussels sprouts can be delicious - crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside and with a mellow cabbage flavour.
No matter what type of roast is on your Christmas table, the festive dinner isn’t complete without some tangy cranberry sauce to go with your main. However, store-bought cranberry sauces can be high in added sugar and preservatives, so why not prepare your own sauce at home to get the most out of the health benefits of cranberries? With only four ingredients (fresh cranberries, honey, water and orange zest), get the home-made cranberry sauce recipe here. But why are cranberries good for our health?
- Cranberries are especially rich in vitamin C and they’re also a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K1, manganese and copper.
- Their skin contains antioxidants and bioactive compounds including ursolic acid which is known to have anti-inflammatory effects and can be beneficial for heart health.
- Some studies have shown that cranberries may reduce the risk of getting Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).
- They may cut the risk of stomach cancer by preventing the bacterium Helicobacter pylori from attaching to your stomach.
With so many tempting foods around us at Christmas, eating healthy over the holidays may seem like an impossible task. But with a bit of balance, you can enjoy Christmas and all it has to offer while also looking after your health.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.