This is the time of year when all we hear about are the rich, sweet Christmas recipes that are loaded with calories, accompanied by articles telling you how avoid gaining weight over Christmas. For a change, we thought we would take a different approach and sing the praises of Christmas fare. You have heard about superfoods, but you probably didn’t realise that they turned up at your Christmas dinner, packed with goodness and health benefits. What’s a few extra calories when all this goodness is before you?
The traditional centrepiece of any Christmas dinner, turkey is a fantastic source of protein and the breast is surprisingly low in fat (even if you smeared it in butter and covered it with bacon). It is a good source of B12 and if you like the legs you will be getting a good serving of iron as well. If you are watching the calories (not something I generally recommend for Christmas day), avoid the skin and go for the lower fat breast.
Like turkey, ham is a good source of iron and protein but ham is also rich in B vitamins including B12 and Niacin, needed to help metabolise your food and to build healthy blood cells. Ham is very high in salt but you can reduce this by soaking the ham in cold water overnight, throwing away that water and adding fresh water to cook it.
Love them or hate them, there is no doubt that Brussels sprouts are one of the original superfoods. Very rich in vitamin K and packed with folic acid, these are a brilliant vegetable to enjoy right through the Winter. Surprisingly, Brussel sprouts are also full of vitamin C – giving nearly twice as much as an orange! These little green vegetables are also rich in antioxidants and a member of the family of cruciferous vegetables that have been shown to help reduce your risk of cancer. Make them more attractive by simply bringing them to the boil and taking them off the heat to sit in the warm water for 10-15 minutes. This leaves them perfectly tender and full of vitamin C.
One of the most popular vegetables at Christmas dinner, carrots are rich in Beta-carotene, a well-known cancer fighting antioxidant as well as vitamin C and a little fibre. Try cooking them lightly to maintain the goodness.
Stuffing (gluten free, of course!)
Made with onions and fresh herbs, stuffing can be a great place to pick up a few antioxidants and vitamins. Not to mention the immune boosting effects of onions, needed in this season of coughs and colds. Try roasting a whole onion along with your turkey to really get the most from this winter vegetable. And check out www.coeliac.ie for our selection of gluten free Christmas stuffing recipes.
Usually seen as a fattening food, gram for gram, potatoes actually have fewer calories than bread. They also contribute most of the vitamin C to the Irish diet and if you eat them in their jackets they are rich in fibre and folic acid as well.
Gravy can be very high in fat as it is made with all the fatty juices from the turkey but using gravy means you collect all the goodness that has flowed from the turkey. Meat juices contain water soluble vitamins like the B vitamins as well as many minerals, which is why it is traditional to use up meat juices. You can reduce the fat by pouring meat juices into a jug and letting the fat come to the surface. It is easy then to spoon off the fat that comes to the top. You can also buy special fat separating jugs. Try your local kitchen store or try online.
Gluten free Christmas cake and plum pudding
There is no doubt that there is plenty of sugar here but there are also lots of raisins, sultanas and currants as well as a variety of nuts. Raisins are rich in iron and sultanas and currants are a source of fibre. A handful of dried fruit counts as one of your five a day which is equivalent to about 2 slices of Christmas pudding…
Whether they are added to cakes and puddings or just eaten as a snack, nuts are a real superfood. A source of protein but also rich in minerals like selenium and zinc, nuts are a great choice as something to nibble on for the Christmas movie. Try a mixture of nuts to get the best benefit but the old reliable peanut still has more protein than any other nut.
And finally: Chocolate
No Christmas would be complete without at least little chocolate. Recent studies have shown that dark chocolate (70% cocoa) may help to keep arteries clear of cholesterol, nice to know when you have just had a fat-filled dinner. Other chocolates can be good as well, especially if you go for chocolates with nuts or dried fruit as these will give you some fibre, vitamins and minerals as well. Don’t like dark chocolate? Even milk chocolate can help top up your nutrition – it’s rich in calcium, iron, vitamin B12 (from the milk) and vitamin B2.
Looking for help with a gluten free Christmas? Check out the rest of the articles and all of the recipes in our Christmas hub at www.coeliac.ie