The Healthiest Christmas Dinner For Runners
Which are the healthiest bits of Christmas food (you might be surprised!)
Christmas is about quality time, loved ones… and food! You can’t deny it, this time of year revolves around food. But how can you retain a modicum of healthy eating amongst the madness? We’d never suggest you shun all treats and go on a diet at Christmas. That’s no fun at all. Btu there’s also no need to throw away your health goals completely. There are plenty of healthy nutrition opportunities – even on Christmas Day. Here’s where you’ll find them.
#1 Brussels Sprouts
Love them or loathe them (we love them!), Brussels are an amazing nutrition opportunity dressed up as a Christmas tradition. In fact, why keep them for Christmas only? Eat them all season! Brussels are cruciferous vegetables (as are cabbage and broccoli). They have a lot of healthy antioxidants, plus vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They have been linked to health benefits including reducing chronic inflammation, helping blood sugar control, and even lowering your risk of some cancers. Did you know, the smaller ones are less sweet (but the bigger ones taste more cabbage-like).
You don’t need to boil them to death, either. Learn to love sprouts by roasting them in the oven, or sautéing with bacon.
Nestled in the toe of every Christmas stocking is a walnut (more on them later) and a satsuma. Do you ever bother to eat them? Well, you should. Satsumas and clementines are portable, come in their own packaging, and are a brilliant snack. As you’d imagine, they have a lot of Vitamin C. But they also contain fibre, Vitamin B12, and even Vitamin E. They’re a great little boost for your immune health, digestion, and even your cardiovascular health. Grab one when you’re tempted to head for the chocolates again…
As well as eating them raw as a snack, you can also add satsuma slices to salads with a dark leafy green (like spinach or watercress), pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
So what about those walnuts? Not all nuts are equal, and walnuts are one of the best for brain health, mood, and key minerals. They are a great source of magnesium – a mineral we can get depleted in easily, especially when we’re stressed. Magnesium can help you sleep, ward off muscle cramps, and help balance fluid levels in the body. Walnuts are also a good vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids and can help lower inflammation, boost gut health, and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Buy walnuts in their shells – a bit of extra work getting to the snack never did anyone any harm!
#4 Smoked salmon
Do you have smoked salmon as Christmas breakfast? It’s a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain health, cell regeneration, mood, and stress management. Salmon is also a good source of Vitamin D (and it’s difficult to get Vitamin D from sunlight at this time of year). Combine with fresh lemon and a dark leafy green and you have a very healthy mini meal. Your body will thank you!
Watch out for the sauces and dressings: salmon itself is very healthy, but we often pair it with heavy, oily mayo-type sauces which add a ton of calories. Can you let the flavour of the salmon shine through?
Make chestnuts part of your Christmas food. Roasted in the oven, chopped into stuffing, or in a puree, chestnuts are surprisingly healthy. They are much lower in calories and fat than any other nut, and have a lot of fibre plus Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and manganese. They’re also one of the best natural sources of beta-carotene. Chestnuts are great for your digestion, can help reduce cholesterol, and balance blood sugar levels. They can give your brain a boost, help blood flow around the body, and even help produce red blood cells. Why do we only eat them at Christmas?
Yes, the classic Christmas centrepiece is actually incredibly healthy. Like most lean meat, turkey is high in protein. But it’s so low in fat (lower even than chicken) that it’s actually higher in protein, gram for gram. Turkey also contains key minerals including zinc, plus niacin,vitamin B6 and B12 and the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan has been linked to better sleep, so maybe turkey can help you get plenty of shut eye over the Christmas break! The white breast meat is lower in fat, but the dark meat has more vitamins and minerals.
Cranberry sauce often contains a lot of sugar, so why not make your own. The cranberries themselves are really low in sugar, and a great source of polyphenols. Nature knows what she’s doing – by giving us these antioxidant-rich berries, we get the perfect natural liver support. Ideal for balancing all that heavy food, sugar, and booze. , cranberry sauce is the perfect liver-enhancing Christmas food to help you recover from that Christmas party hangover.
Make your own cranberry sauce, so you can control the amount of sugar. You can also add frozen cranberries to drinks!
#8 Red cabbage
Often a Boxing Day favourite, red cabbage is a nutritional superstar. It’s incredibly high in Vitamin C, so can help the entire family stay healthy over the festive season. It pairs wonderfully with orange and spices, boosting its antioxidant powers.
Use red cabbage in cooked dishes, but don’t discount using it raw (it’s great for a homemade slaw type salad).
There’s always someone at Christmas dinner who loves parsnips more than any other part of the dinner! Well, that person might be smarter than you think. Parsnips might not look like a superhero, but they do a lot for heart health and the cardiovascular system. They are high in micronutrients including potassium and folate. So put a few roasties back, and take a few extra parsnips instead!