As a nutrition support dietitian, I often feel sad when patients come to clinic with their head full of guilty thoughts about foods, having received lots of messages about all the things they “shouldn’t” eat. After all, not only is food a pleasure and a joy, it’s also what keeps us alive! This is also true when it comes to Christmas dinner.
So, here’s a little antidote to all that! One of the best things about being a Dietitian is that we can generally find an excuse to eat almost anything: pretty much anything we eat or drink will have a health benefit somewhere. So, here’s my reasons why Christmas dinner is good for you …..
Eight reasons why Christmas dinner is good for you
- This is probably the meal where you eat a greater variety of plant-based foods than at any other time. Chestnuts, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, brussels, nuts, stuffing made from onions and herbs, dried fruit ….. research has shown that the greatest variety of plant foods leads to the healthiest gut microbiome (I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog post). If you cook plenty, you can make Bubble and Squeak for Boxing Day lunch – one of my absolute favourite things about Christmas!
- Brussel sprouts! Everyone’s favourite baby cabbage is high in folate, potassium, Vitamin C, eye-friendly antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, and glucosinolates, which form a cancer-fighting compound called sulforaphane in the body
- Turkey is a great source of high-quality protein, as well as many B vitamins and several minerals – for example phosphorus, which is vital for bone health. If you are opting for red meat – e.g. beef or game, this will also provide extra iron. Iron helps your body make red blood cells, which are involved in carrying oxygen around the body. A deficiency can cause tiredness, lack of concentration and low mood. Meat also contains zinc, a mineral which is important in the immune system and may help ward off those winter colds.
- Nuts – a great source of healthy fats. A 2015 study revealed that those who ate walnuts showed a greater reduction in “bad” (LDL) cholesterol than those who didn’t eat any. Nuts are also high in fibre and protein, and are perfect for including in festive vegetarian main courses.
- Cheese – a good source of tryptophan, which boosts levels of the calming and sleep-inducing chemical serotonin -sometimes called the “happy hormone” – we could all do with some of that over Christmas! Cheese is also rich in protein and calcium.
- Potatoes are a good, filling, affordable and nutrient-dense staple food which contain fibre, potassium, vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and folate. The UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey reveals that potatoes contribute 14% of the Vitamin C in the diet of British adults.
- Christmas pudding / mince pies (dried fruit) – full of fibre which can help avoid the risk of constipation sometimes associated with all that rich food and lack of exercise over the holiday
- Dietitians can even think of an excuse for chocolate! Dark chocolate contains small, but useful, amounts of iron. A 2018 survey of British adults revealed that 27% had eaten chocolate for breakfast the previous Christmas!
So remember: “Everything in moderation, including moderation”! Enjoy the best meal of the year!
A very Merry Christmas to all.
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