We all know Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, yet it can be absolutely the worst for our waistlines. But when it seems as though you’re gaining pounds around your middle as rapidly as losing them from your wallet, fear not! You can indulge in delicious and healthy dishes over the festive season with the right recipes and a splash of imagination. Here are some of our favourites!
- Quinoa stuffing
Quinoa for Christmas, you ask? Yep! Ok, so it might not have the same Advent associations as mince pies and mulled wine, but it’s the ideal ingredient if you’re counting the calories. With twice the protein content of rice, it’s an excellent source of calcium and magnesium as well as vitamins B and E and fibre, and it’s also a good low GI option. Try quinoa as a substitute for the bread in traditional stuffing, mixing in ingredients such as pine nuts, herbs or apple for extra flavour.
- Spinach starters
Bursting with vitamin K - which boosts bone strength - and a good source of iron, spinach can be offered as a starter to avoid it overpowering the main course. Try spinach stuffed mushrooms or spinach balls - just mix cooked spinach with bread crumbs, Parmesan, eggs and a dash of pepper, shape into little balls and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Sweet potato roasties
Just like traditional roast potatoes but with extra fibre and vitamin A, this superfood is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, as it has a lower effect on blood glucose levels. The potatoes’ cheerful orange colour and sweet taste also make them appealing to children - particular when cut into lengths and presented as ‘orange chips’! Don’t give up on good old white potatoes just yet though; they’re higher in essential minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium and come gift-wrapped in fibre-rich skin!
- Super sprouts
Love them or hate them, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without this seasonal best-seller. They are good for nearly every part of the body, with vitamins C, A, and K, manganese, copper, protein, iron and magnesium being just some of their benefits. Serve them topped with pine nuts and crispy prosciutto for extra flavour or mix after boiling with root ginger and soy sauce for a festive stir-fry.
- Leftover Christmas dinner soup
Planning a bracing Boxing Day walk? Don’t leave home without a hearty flask-full of second helpings, cunningly blended into a delicious and portable soup! Adding natural yoghurt gives an enticing creamy texture without the calories, while sprout-averse children won’t even know what they’re eating!
- Cheese (yes, really!)
Cheese gets a bad press for its saturated fat content but the right cheese in small servings has plenty of health benefits too, such as being a source of calcium and protein. Feta is particularly packed with protein, as well as micronutrients such as vitamin B12. Cottage cheese is a firm favourite among weight watchers for being low in calories and high in protein while, believe it or not, string cheese - the type found in kids’ lunchboxes - is another one to choose, for the same reasons! Serve with sliced apples, vegetables or grapes after or between meals.
- Hot fruit bake
Get your five a day the tasty way! When you’re fed up of Christmas pudding and chocolates, chop up all that fruit you optimistically pledged to snack on and throw into a casserole dish. Add extra flavour with seasonal berries and spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, or use up leftover mincemeat for a delicious alternative to mince pies. Drizzle a little oil over the top, bake for an hour and tuck in!
Hopefully these tasty treats will put the joy into Christmas but, should you be unlucky enough to experience any health disasters, here’s what to do! And if you’re keen to start 2018 on a healthy new footing, the downtime between Christmas and new year might be a good chance to research the benefits of health insurance for you and your family.