Want to put a healthy spin on the traditional Christmas dinner - without losing the delicious indulgence of the season? Here's how!
1. Pigs in blankets
Whilst sausages wrapped in bacon are, essentially, the dream, this fried favourite has a high fat content. The healthier option? Swap the back for Parma ham and the sausages for asparagus. "The fibre content of the asparagus helps support healthy digestion and contains fewer calories," explains Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK. "Add in approximately four slices of parma ham and you are still under 10grams of fat."
2. Bread sauce
Bread sauce is a popular choice for enjoying with a tenderly cooked roast and stuffing. "Butter, cream, milk and sometimes even roasting fat give it the rich and smooth taste but can be a bit heavy," says Michaela Vagnini, nutritionist at naturesplus.co.uk. "If you like to make bread sauce yourself and want a healthier choice, swap milk and cream for oat milk, it would retain a nice flavour but with less calories and would be easier to digest."
"Also you can find good gluten free breadcrumbs if you are sensitive to gluten or suffer from IBS. To add more flavour use lots of herbs and spices like cloves, nutmeg, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary. If you are vegan use extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil instead of butter," suggests Michela.
!Avoid stock cubes and ready-made stocks as they are usually rich in salt and flavourings. You can make healthier gravy by using a fresh homemade meat or vegetable stock. You can then add mushrooms, which gives it that woody and hearty taste that many of us love in gravy. For extra flavouring add onions, cloves and herbs and spices," recommends Michela.
4. Roast potatoes
"Potatoes are classed as root vegetables but they don't count towards your five a day as they are mainly a source of starch. With this food you are taking in a whole heap of calories with not many nutritional benefits."
Try roasted parsnips with paprika instead, recommend the experts: "Parsnip is a starchy vegetable; it still counts towards your five a day because it’s a source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, folate and potassium. Adding the paprika gives an extra nutritional boost as well as making them delicious. Paprika is very high in Beta Carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A, which helps to keep your skin looking radiant and firm."
5. Christmas pudding
Christmas puddings are a classic staple of a traditional British Christmas dessert. "Overall the traditional Christmas pudding is a bit heavy to digest, especially after a big Christmas meal and especially when made with lots of candied peels, dried fruits and butter. This desert can be a seriously calorific finale to your festive meal, full of sugars and fats, so where possible limit your portion to a small one," explains Michela.
6. Stilton and Port
"Stilton cheese has a high fat and calorie content. Adding a glass of port to this can bump the calories up even more! Swap the stilton for goat's cheese, which has slightly fewer calories, and less fat. Add some grapes instead of the port, as it’s less than half the calories of the port. This is also the kinder option for your liver as alcohol takes its toll on this vital organ,” explains Shona.
7. After dinner chocolates
To soothe a sweet tooth craving after dinner many opt for chocolate coins or after eights but for a healthier, yet sweet alternatives, try date and coconut balls instead. “I make bite size date and coconut balls and although they are still a treat, they only contain natural sugars and energy-giving almond nuts (any nut may be used), shredded coconut, oil and dates of course. They take seconds to make and are so satisfyingly rich. They also combine many calming minerals, magnesium and calcium from the dates and your healthy protein rich essential fats and fibre from the coconut and coconut oil. They are also a source of iron, B6 and Vitamin C. Great essential nutrients to help support immunity and digestion during the festive period!” explains Alix Woods, Nutritionist at Quest Nutra Pharma.
“If you have the time and want to make your own Christmas pudding you can make it healthier by not adding any extra sugar, as natural sugars come from the dried currants and raisins. Instead of candied peels use zest and fresh orange and lemon juice. Swap butter or lard with coconut butter and for extra flavour use the likes of ginger, nutmeg cinnamon and cardamom,” suggests Michela.