Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Have yourself a happy, healthy little Christmas

The upside is that turkey's a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and is thought to help support mood
Jane McClenaghan

THREE more sleeps before Santa works his magic! If you are putting the final touches to your Christmas shopping list and gathering your little elves to help with the Christmas dinner, then take a moment to consider the health benefits of some of our favourite seasonal foods.

Santa’s Top 10 Super Foods

Surely the best way for Mr Claus to stay energised for the job in hand is to pack some nourishing and energising foods into his sleigh. There are certain traditions that cannot be forgotten at this time of the year, and although a lot of focus tends to be on the less than healthy foods, there are plenty of nourishing, delicious foods to be enjoyed at Christmas.

Turkey: A good source of the amino acid tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and is thought to help support mood.

Brussels sprouts: One of the brassica/cruciferous vegetables. Well researched and renowned for their effects on the cardiovascular system and immune health, they are packed with important antioxidants like indole-3-carbinol and glucosinolates.

Nuts and seeds: A good source of essential omegas to help balance inflammation, nourish the brain and support heart health.

Clementines and satsumas: These wee oranges are a good source of vitamin C and important phytonutrients like linmonene, hesperidin and rutin. Eat some of the pith (but not the skin) to get additional benefits.

Salmon: A seasonal decadence and a great source of the essential fats EPA and DHA.

Pomegranate: A superfood with potent antioxidant properties. Perfect added to salads.

Berries and cherries: These jewel-coloured fruit and low sugar and important for immune and cardiovascular health.

Garlic and onions: Packed full of sulphur for health.

Green tea: Contains l-theanine to help calm and energise.

Herbs: Rosemary, thyme and parsley are packed with antioxidants to support immunity.

Berries are important for immune and cardiovascular health, sprouts are packed with important antioxidants

A happy and healthy Christmas

:: Get your Christmas morning off to a good start with a decadent breakfast of smoked salmon and eggs to help maintain and sustain your energy levels for the big day. A protein-rich breakfast will keep your mood, stress levels and energy more balanced than a quick fix like croissants and jam.

:: If you are having a starter with your Christmas Day lunch, why not go retro with a prawn cocktail, served with a Marie Rose sauce made with a little tomato puree and creme fraiche, served on crisp salad, or bulk in the veggies and make a seasonal soup?

:: The main event of course is Christmas dinner. A celebration of local produce and seasonal foods like turkey, ham, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots, maybe a little kale – and not forgetting the spuds of course. Pack your plate with seasonal vegetables and have a little less potato. Remember to cook your roasties in a little duck fat or goose fat, rather than using delicate oils like olive oil or vegetable oil, which will get damaged by the high temperatures in your oven.

:: After lunch, enjoy a dessert of your choice, but rather than a huge portion, choose what you really want to eat, have a smaller/medium-sized portion and really savour it. Eating mindfully is one of the best things we can do for our appetite (and waistlines).

:: Don’t feel you have to get stuck into the tin of sweets after your dinner, just choose a handful of your favourites and enjoy a few, rather than devouring the tin while watching the Eastenders special.

:: Keep well hydrated – remember to drink enough water. Alternate alcohol with a glass of water, or offer sparkling water or still water with some festive pomegranate seeds to give it a Christmassy twist.

Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas.

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