Looking forward to Christmas, but worrying about your strength of will when confronted with the giant turkey and lashings of gravy, sprouts and homemade bread sauce? Not to mention the after effects of Christmas pudding, platters full of mince pies and that large dish holding quantities of delicious brandy butter?
Well, change your mind. Christmas fare can be super healthy. Give up the guilt and go for it! Allow yourself the pleasures of a truly foodie Happy Christmas
Turkey should be your number one high protein meat of choice year round. It is high in selenium and potassium, boosting your immune system and helping to fight off those winter flus and viruses. Niacin, thiamin and zinc keep your metabolism fired up and your weight gain down, and tryptophan boosts serotonin levels to make the whole family happy. Turkey is low calorie, fat free and also contains vitamins B and C and the phosphorus that strengthens your bones and teeth. It is indisputably good for you, so positively reach out for that second slice....
Make it yourself and as you pour large quantities over your turkey and potatoes that critical voice in your head will be placated and your conscience can remain perfectly clear. Give up using the fat from the turkey pan, a recipe for high cholesterol and heart problems on a plate, and use chicken or vegetable stock instead. Add in the water from your Brussels sprouts or carrots, thicken with a few spoons of flour or some puréed courgettes or aubergine, add in salt and pepper and some spices for flavour and - sorted.
Love it or hate it, there’s no need to feel guilty about this Christmas Day favourite. If your sauce is made from the crusts of the loaves you are on to a winner. Stuffed full of antioxidants, bread crust is full of fibre, minerals and vitamins. The cloves that give bread sauce its Christmassy flavour will help you get through any digestive overload, boosting your liver’s function as well as your overall immunity, and protecting you from unwelcome Christmas flu bugs along the way. Add in some chromium-filled, sliced and diced onions and you may well successfully regulate any blood sugar swings from your unaccustomed over-indulgence. Seconds please....
And what about that high point of any Christmas feast? Crispy, perfectly browned and roasted, those delicious morsels without which no Christmas is complete? No need to worry too much about your waistline as long as you don’t overload your plate. Despite being high in calories roast potatoes are also full of potassium, B6, manganese, niacin, calcium and vitamin C. Par-boil before roasting and they will absorb less fat.
Did you know that cranberries are excellent for your teeth? Stuffed full of anti-oxidants, fibre, vitamin C and immune boosting vitamin E, this is another delicious sauce that’s definitely good for you.
Red, orange or green, these are your Christmas immune system essentials. Carrots contain lutein and alpha and beta carotene which boost your vision and decrease the risk of macular degeneration. Green beans are full of antioxidants - beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin - as well as vitamin C and vitamin K. Red cabbage is rich in fibre and stuffed full of vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. And as for the Brussels sprouts, give up any deep rooted aversion and make them your new best friends. Packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C, cook them lightly, combine them with some iron-building chestnuts and grab yourself a plate of goodness.
The key here is to bin the shop bought version and make your own. Cut down on processed sugar; replace it with blood sugar controlling xylitol or Stevia instead and most of the ‘badness’ disappears in a flash. Add in a range of nuts (full of zinc, selenium, magnesium and vitamin E), fruits and those oh so healthy spices to your home-made Christmas desserts, and who could say that mince pies or plum pudding are actually that bad for you? Oranges or lemons for additional vitamin C; a prune or two to get your bowels going and hey presto! As healthy a pudding as anyone could ask for. Virtually a health food supplement in itself!
And for afters?
A walk in the trees
Make sure your after feasting activities keep you on the health straight and narrow... Go for a walk in the park or the woods. Walking amongst trees has been shown in studies to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research also shows it improves memory, lowers blood pressure and boosts mental health.
And last but not least, manage your Christmas viewing. Emotions can run high as you fight over the remote control. Cut out the violent TV series that have been shown to increase blood pressure, negative emotions and aggressive behaviour. Replace with feel good Christmas favourites and merry Christmas movies that up your serotonin levels and leave the whole family ringing out the bells and kissing under the mistletoe.
Have yourselves a very merry, super healthy Christmas and start the New Year as you mean to go on....
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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