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Healthy Christmas Cooking Tips

bev walton

With a small amount of effort, you can make your Christmas festivities a lot healthier.

On an average Christmas day, people consume upwards of 2,800 calories in ONE DAY! On average, in the region of 100 or more grams of fat – this can all be cut down by some clever thinking.

Follow some of our helpful tips – not only are they much more health-friendly, but they will also stop you having that ‘sluggish’ post-Christmas feeling. Seasonal fruits and nuts, along with well-chosen herbs will bring all the flavour you need, without piling on the fat and debilitating your energy.

The Ubiquitous Turkey ....

Whilst over the last 10 years or so, people have been experimenting and changing the traditional turkey to 3-meat roasts and other cuts. Remember, turkey is still one of the healthiest meats available for dishes and recipes, with a high protein, low fat content. But you can make it even healthier by changing your cooking method in at least one or several ways.

By using a skinless and boneless turkey roast, you immediately remove a large quantity of the fat that is contained. Try removing the skin, or getting your butcher to do it, and basting the turkey with seasoning and a healthy oil, such as olive oil, cover and place in the oven. Alternatively, you can keep the skin on, but make sure you prick it and place it on a rack above your oven tray to allow the fat content to run away.

Slow roast the turkey in a very low temperature oven – a 5 to 6kg bird should take about 8-9 hours on the lowest temperature you have, in a baking tray with a little water in. The oven should be set at no more than 65-70°C. Put the bird on one side with the leg underneath, then turn the bird after about 3 hours on to the other side. This will cook the bird evenly. Make sure you test with a meat thermometer towards the end of cooking, so that the internal temperature is no less than 65°C.

For basting, you can try a little raw honey mixed with olive oil – it gives a delicious flavour and also makes a fantastic base for your gravy.

Go for Vegetable or Fruit Stuffing ...

Pork sausagemeat for stuffing is extremely high in fat and needs to be cooked at a high temperature. Try mixing chopped dried apricots with nuts such as pecans, almond or hazelnuts with lemon juice, wholemeal breadcrumbs and beaten eggs – the stuffing will be moist and above all, cut out an incredible amount of unhealthy fats. You can add chopped onion, celery etc to this as well as additional herbs. Berries, such as cranberries or goji berries also make a wonderful stuffing.

Steam, don’t Scream ...!

Always try to steam your vegetables to keep in both flavour and moisture and to avoid a ‘soggy’ mess on the plates. Brussel Sprouts take on a whole new flavour this way. Once again, try chopping the sprouts and mixing with toasted walnut pieces – absolutely delicious! Carrots will benefit from a little fresh orange juice and grated rind – really brings out the flavour.

Don’t be a Couch Potato ...

Whilst lovely crisp roast potatoes are delicious, particularly when cooked in goose fat, they are probably the biggest offender on your Christmas lunch plate. A healthier alternative would be to roast sweet potatoes using olive oil and seasoning, along with chopped fresh rosemary – you will have all the flavour you want, plus a delicious aroma in the kitchen.

How Not to Fall Asleep After Lunch .....

After a large lunch, larger than you would eat at any other time of the year, try to avoid the Christmas Pudding – laden with fat, even though it is delicious and it’s only once a year!

Roast or stew some seasonal fruits with plenty of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or star anise. They produce their own sauce from natural juices. If you are missing the cream – try crème fraiche or even some mascarpone cheese – lighter and lower in fat.

Chestnuts and pumpkin can also provide healthier desserts. Try using maple syrup or raw honey as sweeteners for any dessert that you make, much healthier and full of more nutritious properties.

Stay healthy – stay awake for those after-lunch games, or even better take an invigorating walk to liven your senses and improve your digestion.