By December most of us can’t wait for a roast dinner – but how can you make it just as enjoyable but healthier? Nutritionist Emma Thornton runs through her tips
A healthier take on a traditional roast dinner
Let’s look at the positives of a festive roast dinner. What’s already healthy and how you make it even more nutritious? Remember cooking from scratch is the number one rule for healthy eating – you know exactly what’s gone into your food and you can dodge processed items with boat loads of hidden sugar, salt, fat and additives.
Start your meal off with a nutrient- packed starter but still in-keeping with tradition. Try a seafood salad starter, as oily fish is rich in omega-3 and protein, and add some leaves such as spinach rich in Vitamins A, C, K and folate to make up your salad. If fish isn’t your thing why not make a big pot of veggie-packed soup instead. Use fresh, colourful vegetables to get a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and just be sure to watch out for the salt content if using stock cubes. [Herbamare Low Salt Vegetable Stock is superbly tasty without the downside of excessive saltiness.]
White meat such as turkey is an excellent source of protein, and turkey in particular is very lean and particularly low in saturated fat. Turkey is rich in essential amino acids such as tryptophan which is important for supporting mood and sleep. Turkey is also rich in iron and B vitamins which are both important for energy production.
Why not try out a healthier cooking method and try poaching your turkey meat instead of roasting it. You can poach it in a broth of herbs, spices and vegetables and will be left with delicious soft meat.
Passionate about potatoes
Every roast dinner has to have potatoes and although they may not count towards one of your five a day, they actually contain good amounts of vitamin C, potassium and fibre. My advice is to consider how you are going to cook them and watch how much, or what type of fat you need to use:
- Bake them – Keeping the skins on will mean you can benefit from some extra fibre and no fat is needed – prick them all over and pop them in the oven for an hour on a low heat and the will be lovely and crispy on the outside with a fluffy centre. Another option is to cut into them widthways like a toast rack and bake them like that for extra crispiness.
- Roast them in coconut oil – So if you can’t do without some roast potatoes try swapping regular oil for some coconut oil. Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides which have been shown to support energy expenditure and heart health. Add some rosemary which helps to support your circulation – a nice addition to a meal with a moderate fat content
- Add in some beets – Ever thought of roasting some earthy beetroot alongside your potatoes? Beetroot is a fantastic addition to your roasting tray as it is rich in iron and phytonutrients. It will add a colourful splash to your plate and taste delicious too!
Sprouts are so underrated; they really are little nutrient powerhouses! Sprouts are loaded with important vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and magnesium. Try roasting them alongside some traditional chestnuts for added sweetness – these are another surprising source of vitamin C. If you really can’t stand sprouts, substitute a different type of green. You could opt for some frozen broad beans, or chopped curly kale – both of these can be boiled or steamed.
Cranberry sauce is a traditional ingredient and quite rightly so – berries are packed with nutrients (brightly coloured foods are often super rich in antioxidants) and cranberries boast an impressive array of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, good for skin health, and iodine to help support your metabolism. Cranberries are also well known for helping to support urinary tract health. Make your own cranberry sauce to avoid pre-packaged versions high in added sugar, and add a splash of orange juice for an extra charge of sweetness and vitamin C.
Don’t scrimp on the veg. Vegetables are low in fat and high in dietary fibre and nutrients. Aim to eat the colours of the rainbow in order to benefit from as wide a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as possible!
Festive Health SOS
As Christmas is a traditional time of overindulgence, these two health helpers are well worth keeping on standby to help soothe your digestion for a happier and more comfortable celebratory season:
Support your digestion with a daily dose of A.Vogel Milk Thistle Complex (£10.85, 50ml, www.avogel.co.uk), containing a gut-soothing blend of milk thistle, artichoke, dandelion, peppermint and boldo. Useful support throughout Christmas and into the New Year.
If indigestion is your Achilles heel, try taking natural silicic acid gel up to three times a day. Colloidal silicic acid gel relieves symptoms of indigestion such as reflux, nausea, heartburn and stomach pain by coating the digestive system with a protective lining that binds with digestive irritants and toxins, as well as adsorbing excess acidity and gases. Try silicolgel (£8.39, 200ml, Boots, www.silicol.co.uk)