A Guide to Cooking a Healthier Christmas Dinner
Christmas dinner is an amazing part of life. It's probably the single best meal of the year if done right, and it has the potential to bring whole families together in peace for an hour or so and is generally a solid representation of what Christmas is all about. It may sound bold, but it's true. With it being enjoyed by so many, however, it's always a good idea to make sure that you're making it as healthy as possible (without sacrificing taste too of course).
To help push things in the right direction, we've put together some of the healthiest tips we can to help you enjoy what a Christmas dinner is all about, without sacrificing your health plans as a result. It's not even too challenging to do, and it could really help get your new year off to the right start (if you want to be a little dramatic anyway).
Let’s get stuck in!
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We'll start with the staple of a Christmas dinner, which is, of course, the turkey. It's a titan of a bird to have to cook, and because of that, it’s one of the hardest on the plate to keep healthy. It would help if you kept it moist after all, and that’s hard to do without using some of the less healthy tactics, so compromise is definitely the key here.
An awesome way to do it is by using healthier oils and brines for a start to help keep things juicy but lower in bad fats (here’s the difference). Extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oils are a good call as well as brine. Just make sure you're trying to cut out excess fat where you can. It's tough to do we know, so do what you can. It's a one-off after all!
Next up, roast potatoes. They’re one of the best foods out there (in our opinion anyway), but they’re another culprit of easily making your meal full of fat. They do have healthy alternatives, though, so take notes! It's not all goose fat and butter roasting!
Using lighter spray oils is one of the best ways to make this one a healthier option, and if you have a hotter oven, you’ll manage to work things out. The balance of heat and lighter oil means crispy potatoes in less time and less fat! Winning!
Sticking with the mighty potato, mash is another awesome component of your mega meal, and making a healthy Christmas dinner means cutting out as much bad fat as possible, plus sugar where we can too. Mash is actually an amazing way to do that!
The best way to make it better is to use soy milk instead of dairy. That has a huge range of benefits while still giving nice creamy mashed potato! On top of that, a bit of margarine instead of butter can help make things a little richer but do take it easy.
Keeping on the veg front, let's breeze through another few of the classics, starting with carrots. The veg choice is always optional of course, and you should go with the family favourites or VIPs of the dinner table, but carrots are amongst the most popular.
Boiling your veg is usually the first port of call, and it's a pretty great way to do it! What's even better still, however, is steaming. It keeps a lot of the nutrients inside the carrots rather than in the water, so you're getting even more goodness!
Sprouts are one of the more controversial members of the Christmas dinner, but if you’re trying to be healthy, don’t rule them out. They’re awesome to have as a seasonal guest or a full-time family member, and they do deserve a seat at the table.
The same applies to sprouts as it does to carrots too, and steaming makes sure they're even better for you due to nutrient retention. It's easy to do too, so there's no excuse not to! If you're going to go for the sprout, you may as well go all out, right?
Parsnips are another culprit of easy to make unhealthy Christmas dinner foods, and they have a lot of the same responsibilities as roasties. They’re expected to be nice and crispy most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they have to be coated in fat.
They really fit in the same boat as the roast potatoes here. Try using spray oils for fuller coverage with less fat, and then turn up the heat for crispier cooking! Awesome!
Leaving veg alone, let’s look at another hugely popular staple of the dinner. Gravy is a great way to coat everything in deliciousness, but the issue is that most of the time, it’s full of unhealthy added extras. It’s usually high in fat and worse still, high in salt, and that’s not going to help anybody in the long run.
To help fight this, there are a few things you can try to make things healthier. Use veg water to make it up for example, as well as low sodium stock and nothing else you’d be tempted to add like fat or even cooking by-products. Keep things clean, and you’ll get all the extras from the rest of the plate anyway! It’s a tough trade-off, but it's a big player.
Let's get into the fillers here, and the most common example of that is stuffing. Stuffing is awesome, and it tastes amazing. There's no denying it. Another awesome thing about it too is that you can make it however you like. There are TONNES of different varieties out there. Finding a good one is easy.
Some of the best examples are the classics like sage and onion but made with less salt etc., but even trying new types like nut and apricot can be a game-changer. Here's an awesome example from BBC Good Food, for example.
Pigs in Blankets
One of the most Christmassy foods out there has to be pigs in blankets. They are just Christmas in their purest form and a portion of iconic seasonal food. The issue is that since they're made up of bacon and sausage, they aren't particularly healthy until now.
The easiest changes you can make are by doing things like buying reduced fat and salt products, but even using healthier fats for cooking them or better still, grilling them, you make them so much better. Cutting off excess fat is another good call, and just generally removing the added badness. Try it out!
That’s a whole Christmas dinner made healthier in one way or another. You need to make sure you’re still making the most of your day and enjoying what you eat. These are just some ideas you can take on board to help where you can. Do what's best for you. Even if you make it a cheat meal, but having the info is always a good thing. Good luck, enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
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