Eating healthily at Christmas can be challenging but it's not impossible. Now, I would be the last person to tell you to stay away from all the Christmas treats but as a Nutrition and Health Coach, I would advise you to be smart about them.
There are always some alternatives that are just as tasty but healthier than their traditional counterparts.
Personally, I follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I eat healthily and 20% of the time I will indulge in whatever I fancy. If you have a varied and well-balanced diet these little exceptions won't undo your hard work.
So, let's take a look at some of my Christmas recipes and tips on how you can eat healthier this Christmas.
Healthy Christmas Appetisers
Instead of the classic prawn cocktail, you could make a light prawn salad. Just pan fry the prawns instead of serving them in a heavy mayonnaise sauce or battered and deep fried. Try to enjoy them in an as natural state as possible to reap all the health benefits. They are packed with protein, calcium, iodine and zinc. Like most types of shellfish, prawns are a low calorie, nutrient-dense food choice. In the past, prawns were often linked to adverse effects on cholesterol, but there is no evidence that prawns specifically increase blood cholesterol.
Vegetable soups are a great start for any Christmas dinner, check out my tips on how to thicken soup without flour.
One of my favourite Christmas appetizers would be these Beetroot and Goat & Cheese Tarts. If you find these slightly too big, serve them in form of little tartlets instead. Beets have many benefits, they are low in calories yet high in fibre, antioxidants and an array of important micronutrients, including folate, manganese, potassium and vitamin C.
Healthy Christmas Dinner
If you are planning on cooking a bird then turkey or pheasant are good choices. They both contain tryptophan which our bodies use to make serotonin, a powerful brain-calming chemical. Turkey is also a tasty lean meat with much less fat than pork and much less salt than ham and as such earns its place at the centre of the Christmas table.
For family members that don't eat meat but fish, Easy Miso and Sesame Salmon With Sugar Snap Peas might be a good alternative. Don't worry, if you are catering for vegetarian or vegan family members, there are plenty of delicious meat-free recipes available such as this delicious Nut Roast or this Cranberry, Feta and Quinoa Stuffed Butternut Squash recipe.
Healthy Christmas Side Dishes
Serve vegetables that are in season, such as chestnuts, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, leeks, turnips, pumpkins, celery, red cabbage, swede or beetroot.
Mashed vegetables have always been a favourite among Christmas foods. These side-dishes are incredibly versatile, their taste and texture vary based on the ingredients used. Replace 1/3 of your mashed potatoes with 1/3 mashed parsnips. This way you cut down on the starchy potatoes and introduce an additional vegetable to the table.
Just because it’s Christmas, you shouldn’t abandon one of the current top food trends – fermented food. Korean kimchi, pickles, and other fermented vegetables made their way into sandwiches and side dishes. Why not introduce them to your Christmas menu? Check out my recipe for Red Cabbage Sauerkraut With Horseradish And Apple to give your good gut bacteria a little boost over the festive days.
Brussels Sprouts - you either love them or hate them, but they are a great source of folic acid, potassium, fibre and vitamins. Vitamin C is important to help wounds heal, protect cells and keep the immune system working. However, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that will leach into the cooking water if you cook sprouts for too long, so cook them quickly in boiling water for no more than five minutes. I love serving them in form of a Brussels sprout and chestnut quiche.
Healthy Christmas Snacks
These Healthier Vegan Mince Pies are incredibly easy to make and a treat for the entire family. Best of all, they are super yummy and free from gluten, flour and refined sugar. The combination of fresh and dried fruits give it a lovely natural sweetness without being overpowering.
Clementines are a great source of vitamin C with over 60% of your recommended intake in 100g or one large fruit. They come into season in November and it's always good to stock up with these before Christmas in case you want a break from mince pies or chocolates. Clementines are a source of natural sugar, which makes them a healthier choice.
Like fruit, all varieties of nuts are nutritious choices offering a protein and fibre-rich snack. They are also packed with essential fats and a range of vitamins and minerals including B Vitamins, zinc and selenium. For good health, weight and cholesterol control, it is recommended that adults consume a small handful or roughly 20 mixed nuts each day. Including nuts as a regular part of your Christmas feasting is a good thing. Just be mindful that naturally roasted nuts are best, as opposed to the chocolate-coated varieties. They can contain as much as 300 calories and 20g of fat in just 5 - 6 scorched almonds.
Trying to avoid the Christmas stress? Check out my post about How To Avoid Christmas Stress!