The pinnacle of this temptation-filled time is the Christmas dinner. The turkey, the stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy… not to mention the pudding; all rich and delicious, but not exactly the most nutritionally balanced. Christmas Day alone can be enough to throw your weight management off track.
Despite the calorific content of your average Christmas roast, there’s no way you’re going to be happy with a small salad on the 25th. In fact, it’s really important when we’re trying to lose weight that we don’t skimp on things like Christmas dinner; without occasional treats we’re liable to lose the enthusiasm and drive which spurs us to continue making improvements to our behaviour.
So instead of dumping the turkey in the bin and measuring out a small portion of low-fat salad dressing here’s some small changes we can make to our Christmas feast to make it healthier. Because every little bit helps!
The bird isn’t actually the worst offender in your average Christmas dinner – in fact it’s actually better than chicken. Light meat is better than dark meat but both are high in vitamin B. Just make sure to prick the skin to allow the fat to drain out during cooking. In terms of fat, the worst part of turkey actually is the skin. A simple enough fix therefore, is to simply remove the skin once it’s cooked.
Try avoiding meat in your stuffing. There are dozens of good recipes online for stuffing made with butternut squash, onions, hazelnuts, even pear!
Traditionally a roast isn’t complete without roast potatoes. However we all known that drenching something in fats and oils isn’t the healthiest way to cook. Why not try baked or boiled potatoes for a much healthier take on potatoes. Although, if it’s just not Christmas without roast potatoes, leave the skin on, drizzle a little oil over them and roast them.
This bit’s easy to get right, so pile them high! Avoid frying and roasting as these both add unnecessary fats into the mix. Vegetables lose most of their nutrients by being broken down by heat, or by leaching out into water. Therefore the best way to cook your Christmas veg is to steam it for a few minutes with minimal water – this will keep the crunchy and full of goodness. Additionally if you can, stomach them, make sure there are plenty of sprouts. The controversial green gem is packed with folate and vitamin C, both of which have countless benefits. If it helps you keep them down, try cooking them with garlic and chilli for an extra kick.
Gravy is a tough one to improve since it’s so tempting just to pour the fat and drippings from the turkey into a rich stock. But we didn’t go to the trouble of pricking that turkey just to pour that fat back over it once it’s on the plate. There are plenty of healthy stock options, but if you’re feeling a little devilish, why not use red wine and cornflour?
In terms of desserts Christmas pudding isn’t actually too bad for you. It’s relatively low in fat, and packs a decent measure of fibre, vitamin B, potassium, iron and calcium. Sticking to one small portion, topped with low fat custard in place of brandy butter, will ensure that you round off the meal nicely without leaving you stuffed and bloated. You can still put the silver coin in – it shouldn’t alter the nutritional value.
And once everyone’s had their fill and has settled down to watch a Bond film, all that’s left is the washing up!
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan