The festive season means something different to each of us but one thing we all have in common at this time of the year is that it’s ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. There are traditional foods that appear each year, many of which are rich in calories, fats and sugars (think Christmas cake with custard, mince pies, trifle, eggnog and chocolate truffles). However there are also incredibly healthy foods that are available, in season and are foods we should gravitate towards and enjoy during the festive season (even afterwards). Here are my top 10:
Berries – Summer is berry season, they’re available in abundance and they’re inexpensive. They can also be an incredible part of any festive season feast. Berries are high in vitamin C and fibre, low in calories and their antioxidant power has given them their ‘superfood’ status.
Seafood – including fish and shellfish, seafood is high in protein, rich in minerals such as selenium and iodine, it contains very little saturated fat and oily fish like salmon and trout is rich in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D.Brussel sprouts – they’re not in season this time of the year but they are usually still available fresh or frozen. Brussel sprouts shine when they’re roasted – the flavours are so great that even those who are anti-brussel sprouts will love them. They’re also a great source of vitamin C, K, B vitamins, they assist with the body’s natural detoxification process and their high fibre content is great for digestive health.
Cacao – chocolate is often part of the festive season but it’s typically full of added sugars and fats. By using anti-oxidant rich cacao powder, you can make your own chocolate truffles and desserts and control the type and amount of sweeteners and fats you add.
Cherries – cherries are abundant and inexpensive during the festive season. They’re incredible by themselves in a great big bowl as something healthy to pick on following a meal. Cherries have been shown to help with weight management, they have cardio-protective and anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain from arthritis and gout.
Cranberries – cranberries are a wonderfully healthy little berry but because they’re not sweet and are quite tart, they’re usually found mixed with a lot of sugar such as with cranberry sauce and cranberry juice. To still get the wonderful antioxidant benefits of these rich red berries, make your own healthy cranberry sauce or desserts using natural sweeteners or add them to salads or stuffing.
Nuts – made into raw desserts, sprinkled over a salad or put out for pre-dinner nibbles, nuts are an excellent source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals such as selenium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and iron as well as many antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Sweet potato – sweet potato is an excellent source of good quality carbohydrate, it’s low GI, which means that Christmas dinner will keep us feeling fuller for longer, plus it’s a rich source of antioxidant beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. It also contains potassium, which plays a role in reducing blood pressure. Sweet potato can replace regular potato baked, as a mash or cold in salads.
Turkey – skinless turkey is a super lean source of complete, high quality protein and very low in saturated fat. It also contains a brilliant variety of nutrients including B vitamins needed for making energy, potassium for heart function and zinc for our immune system.
Wholegrains – known for their heart-healthy and cancer-protective properties, wholegrains can be included in the festive season in salads such as quinoa or brown rice salad or use wholegrain bread rolls to accompany meals.
By Jaime Rose Chambers | Eat Fit Food’s Dietitian and Nutritionist