In the run up to Christmas it’s easy to descend into an entirely negative mind set about the calorific challenge of the season. December can seem like a non-stop test of willpower – you’re hoping to fit into that fabulous outfit at New Year but you’re being offered food treats wherever you turn, and opportunities to drink alcohol increase exponentially as invitations to meet up for drinks and attend office parties pile up.
I’ve read numerous articles, blogs and tweets in the last week which concentrate on how to avoid this seasonal overindulgence – what not to drink, what not to eat and what not to do. In fact I wrote one myself recently (http://www.joannehenson.co.uk/does-your-christmas-come-early/).
But in order to bring about a little balance, I’d like to sing the praises of some healthy Christmas foods. Here are a few things which you don’t have to feel guilty about eating:
I know nuts are high in calories, but they are good calories. With those calories you get good fats, protein, vitamins and fibre.
The fat in nuts is mainy polyunsaturated, omega-3 fat. This can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of a number of different diseases.
The fibre in nuts also helps to lower cholesterol, and it maintains healthy bowel functions and helps to control blood sugars.
One of the key vitamins in nuts is Vitamin E – this is a powerful anti-oxidant, which contributes to skin health, strengthens the immune system and is also thought to reduce the risks of coronary disease.
So help yourself to a handful of nuts – just make sure they aren’t salted!
Unless you’re vegetarian there’s no way you’ll get through the season without eating at least one portion of turkey, but try to eat it often. Turkey is a great, lean source of protein. It provides folic acid, B vitamins, zinc and potassium.
And when you sit down to Christmas lunch make sure the ratio of turkey to carbohydrate sources on your plate is high – the higher the proportion of protein in the meal, the better it is for the stability of your blood sugar levels, helping ward off Type 2 diabetes and metabolic disorders.
And eat the leftovers on Boxing Day too – you can’t eat too much protein!
Satsumas are full of Vitamin C, along with fibre, the benefits of which I have already mentioned above. They also have potassium which helps with a variety of things including heart function and digestive health, and copper, which helps with absorption of iron and protects blood vessels and nerves.
All that for around 25 calories!
I do have to admit a certain amount of bias here – I absolutely love Brussels sprouts. And knowing that they are nutritional powerhouses make me love them even more.
They are another great source of fibre, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. But you might be surprised to hear that they also contain those good omega-3 fats.
Being a cruciferous vegetable, sprouts also contain phytochemicals which may help reduce inflammatory conditions, help with detoxification and lower the risk of cardiovascular problems.
So make sure you eat your greens!
As an oily fish, smoked salmon has already had quite a bit of good press over the past few years – and rightly so. Once again, like our other Christmas food heroes, it provides protein, healthy fats and Vitamin E.
It’s thought that omega-3 fats may help lift your mood, so starting the day with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs could not only provide a nutritious meal which will keep blood sugar levels stable, but it may also brighten up your day if eaten on a regular basis.
So if you find yourself feeling guilty about eating some of the less healthy foods on offer this Christmas, congratulate yourself that you’ve also topped up your fibre, omega-3, vitamin and protein levels. And try to incorporate some of these healthy Christmas foods into your diet all year round – you won’t go far wrong with a diet which mainly consists of lean protein, good fats, green vegetables and citrus fruits.