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MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Navigating the Nutritional Landscape of Christmas Foods

christmas foods

As the festive season is upon us, so is the abundance of Christmas foods, each carrying traditions and tastes unique to the holiday. 

While indulgence is part of the celebration, understanding the healthiness levels of these foods can help you enjoy the season’s flavours more mindfully. Here’s a guide to some traditional Christmas foods and their healthiness levels.

1. Roasted Turkey

Healthiness Level: Healthy

A staple at many Christmas dinners, turkey is a lean source of protein that is low in fat, especially when you opt for white meat and remove the skin. It’s also a good source of vitamins B3 and B6, selenium, and phosphorus. To keep it healthier, avoid over-saluting or overcooking, which can dry it out, prompting the addition of extra sauces or gravies.

2. Mince Pies

Healthiness Level: Less Healthy

Mince pies, filled with a mixture of dried fruits, spices, and sometimes meat, are a Christmas classic. While dried fruits provide a source of fibre and nutrients, the added sugars and fats from the pastry can make these pies quite calorie-dense. Enjoying them in moderation is key.

3. Christmas Pudding

Healthiness Level: Less Healthy

This rich dessert made from dried fruits, nuts, and alcohol, and often served with cream or custard, is high in sugars and saturated fat. However, it also provides fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals from dried fruits and nuts. Enjoy smaller portions to savour its taste without overindulging.

4. Brussels Sprouts

Healthiness Level: Healthy

Often served alongside a Christmas roast, Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, vitamins C and K, and other nutrients. They can be very healthy when steamed or roasted with minimal added fats. However, beware of recipes that include large amounts of bacon or heavy sauces, which can add extra fat and calories.

5. Mulled Wine

Healthiness Level: Moderate

Mulled wine is a popular Christmas beverage made with red wine, various mulling spices, and sometimes raisins. While red wine is touted for its antioxidant properties, the added sugars can make mulled wine quite high in calories. Enjoying it in moderation can be part of a healthy Christmas celebration.

6. Christmas Ham

Healthiness Level: Moderate

Ham is another Christmas favourite. While it’s a good source of protein, it’s also typically high in sodium and preservatives, especially when cured or smoked. Opt for leaner cuts and balance your plate with plenty of vegetables to make a healthier meal.

7. Cheese Board

Healthiness Level: Moderate to Less Healthy

A selection of cheeses can provide good amounts of calcium and protein. However, cheese is also high in saturated fat and salt. Pairing cheese with whole-grain crackers and fresh fruits rather than meats or bread can help keep your appetiser healthier.

Tips for a Healthier Christmas:

  • Portion Control: Enjoy all foods in moderation. Be mindful of portion sizes, especially for high-calorie foods.
  • Balance Your Plate: Fill half of your plate with vegetables and salad before adding meats and other side dishes.
  • Cooking Methods: Opt for baking, steaming, or roasting rather than frying or cream-based preparations.
  • Healthy Swaps: Choose whole-grain bread, low-fat dairy, and lean cuts of meat. Use herbs and spices for flavor instead of excessive salt or sugar.
  • Stay Active: Incorporate some physical activity into your day, even if it’s a short walk or family game that gets everyone moving.

Conclusion

Christmas is a time for celebration, and food is a big part of the festive spirit. By understanding the healthiness levels of traditional Christmas foods, you can make informed choices that allow you to enjoy the holiday’s culinary delights while still taking care of your health. Remember, balance and moderation are key to enjoying this festive season healthily and happily.

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