Guest Writer: Maria King (co-founder of Junius) Functional Medicine Expert.
With the festive season upon us (already!), it's natural to start feeling the pressure. One pressure experienced by many each year is around food and healthy eating. We are big fans of the 80/20 approach, which means doing your best to eat healthy, well balanced meals 80% of the time whilst allowing 20% room for the foods and treats you love that aren't necessarily as healthy. No one should feel that they need to be 100% perfect because that just isn't reality and nor is it necessary!
However, the festive season doesn't have to mean a total deviation from healthy, nourishing foods and in this blog we offer some simple ideas for healthy festive foods this Christmas. Some of your favourites such as mince pies and salty snacks CAN be made healthy if you just know how!
Your body needs all the nutrients it can get during the winter months, and it’s important not to lose sight of this during the festive season. Regardless of how many times you eat out and the extra chocolates and desserts being thrown at you, our advice is to focus on the nutrients you need to put IN rather than stressing over the additional treats you’re more than likely to allow in December.
The foundations of a balanced plate, even during the festive season
So here we have a pretty comprehensive review on Covid 19 and it’s Modifiable contributing factors. This in simple terms shows what was done during the pandemic was not science.
Whether you’re eating out or at home, meals during the festive season and Christmas Day itself, can still have a healthy, balanced foundation. The key elements to consider for all your meals are:
A source of protein - providing at least 30g of pure protein such as chicken, turkey, fish (preferably omega 3 rich/’oily’ types), eggs, tofu, lamb, beef (preferably grass fed and organically reared), beans and lentils or quality, unflavoured protein powder.
1 to 2 portions of good fats - such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk or cream, olives, avocado, nuts or nut butters and seeds such as flax, chia, pumpkin and sunflower.
A good few handfuls of colourful plants (vegetables), cooked or raw. Select vegetables from the different colour categories; purples, oranges, reds, yellows, dark greens and beige.
1 fist size serving of slow-releasing carbohydrates - such as sweet potato, baby new potato, beetroot, parsnips and whole grains. During the festive season you might have more carbohydrates on your plate than usual, and that’s OK! Just ensure you include optimal amounts of protein in all your meals and your body will be able to process your carbohydrates better than if there was low or no protein.:
Sticking to the balanced plate foundations here allows you to support your nutrient supply, health and body composition during the festive season.
Christmas dinner is healthier than you think!
Did you know that the traditional Christmas dinner is actually packed with nutrition?
In fact, many foods we enjoy at Christmas are actually not that unhealthy at all and just a few smart adjustments to some of the favourites can go a long way in minimising your level of over-indulgence! The Christmas turkey is packed with protein and is particularly rich in an important amino acid called tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin, the so-called “feel good brain chemical” also responsible for a good night's sleep and calmer mood. Festive red cabbage is rich in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanin which has been shown in some research to have anti-ageing properties and be heart health protective. Brussels sprouts belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables which are a key group of vegetables for your liver’s detoxification processes. Cruciferous vegetables particularly help with the healthy breakdown and clearance of used oestrogen, which is KEY for healthy hormone balance. So, don’t scrimp on these little green delights! They’re extra delicious sauteed with chopped bacon and olive oil. Typical festive roasted vegetables such as carrots, parsnips are packed with antioxidants and fibre, as long as they're not too overcooked. Also include roasted beetroot to add more colour into the roasted vegetable mix! Including other green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and cauliflower adds even more nutrient, fibre and cruciferous-rich goodness to your plate.
Cooking with healthier oils
Avoid cooking with sunflower, rapeseed or vegetable oils and sprays as these are what’s known as ‘trans’ fats and offer no nutritional benefits at all. In fact, trans fats have been shown to be inflammatory to the cells of the body and brain. Instead, cook with coconut oil or light olive oil. Roasting potatoes in goose fat is preferable over the trans fats oils as goose fat is a natural saturated fat.
Healthy ideas & swaps for savoury nibbles Instead of refined white flour snacks such as crackers with your festive cheese, choose oatcakes or German dark rye bread cut into smaller squares instead, which come with fibre and a slower and lesser release of glucose into the bloodstream. Swap pastry canapes for vegetable crudites of celery, mange tout, carrots and peppers with hummus, cheese, cottage cheese and guacamole. Add protein-rich nibbles such as chicken skewers, prawn skewers, smoked salmon slices and quality cheeses. Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate. Swap crisps for olives and nuts such as cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, pecan and walnuts. Let’s now have a look at some healthier ways to enjoy some of your favourite festive sweet treats!
Mince pies with a healthy spin Mince pies don't have to be laden with gluten, white flour and sugar. Why not make your own with ingredients such as ground almonds (instead of flour) and maple syrup (instead of sugar). We love this healthier mince pie recipe you might like to try at home.
Add more festive health benefits with Junius's Zip range? This month we are celebrating our ZIP juice and shot for their festive rich red colour due to the antioxidant-rich red plants we include in the science-backed recipe. Invigorate your body this festive season with a month’s supply of our ZIP juice and shot. The juice is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids from organic hibiscus flowers and carrots blended with immune-supportive quercetin from red apples and anti-inflammatory, digestive- helping ginger. The shot contains oxygenating beetroot and guarana to naturally boost energy levels.
We hope this blog has given you some inspiration for healthy Christmas foods, festive favourites, so you can head into the festive season with confidence and knowledge about how to have a healthy yet fun and slightly indulgent time! Remember, whether you’re eating out or at home, meals during the festive season and Christmas Day itself, CAN still be healthy and balanced by following the balanced plate foundation described at the top of this blog.
Wishing you a wonderful, peaceful, calm and healthy festive season!
From the team at the New School Of Nutritional Medicine
Learn about the Founder & Principal of the New School of Nutritional Medicine, Dr Khush Mark PhD HERE.