Healthy New Year 2 – Nutrition – Christmas Dinner Review
Are you suffering from turkey overload?
I’ve never understood it, but the traditional Christmas ‘turkey and all the trimmings’ seems to lead people to buy the biggest bird they can possibly find and then end up eating it for the rest of December and into January.
I’ve heard people talk about being sick of the turkey sandwiches for lunch and once the turkey curry, turkey & ham pie and turkey soup have been brought out repeatedly for dinner, everybody is done with turkey for another year until it can be done all over again.
Then of course there are the chocolates. Why is it that Christmas seems to be chocolate season? Do we, as a society, actually really love chocolate at Christmas time, or are we so unimaginative that we can think of nothing else to give our loved ones as presents. (Apologies for those kind people who bought me chocolate for a Christmas present, I don’t mean to be ungrateful).
In our house, there is generally a bit of chocolate around, but come Christmas season, there is always more than we need and we get that weird “if I just eat it all now and get it out of the way, I won’t feel as bad about it because it will be gone” thing which is equally as strange as the excess turkey!
Bad nutrition or just too much?
Is it really that bad to eat a roast turkey dinner with all the extras, some christmas pudding soaked in brandy and then some mince pies with brandy butter, some chocolate, crackers & cheese followed by a slice of grandma’s christmas cake?
Let’s start with the meat. I chose turkey for the sake of argument, it is traditional and we aren’t poshy-pants enough to eat goose or pheasant or a 3-bird roast or anything like that (thank you very much Rebecca!).
Turkey is actually a pretty good all-round protein, see the nutrition data yourself.
It doesn’t have as much fat as a lot of other meats and it contains plenty of omega 3 and omega 6 especially in the darker meat bits in the shoulder areas – often an area that people avoid because they prefer the white breast meat.
‘Pigs in Blankets’ come in as one of my favourite bits of our Christmas dinner. We are of course told repeatedly that processed foods are bad for us and I must admit that unless you choose carefully, you can end up with low quality meat and a lot of fillers in the sausages. Also they regularly have quite a lot of added salt, something that will cause problems if uncontrolled. Depending on the sausage meat involved, healthy nutritional content can swing wildly. A basic pork sausage is quite high in saturated fat and salt. Others may have different values but though the taste is supreme, this is probably the least beneficial part of Christmas dinner.
The bacon wrapped around the outside, again often has a relatively high salt content and although it is a good, complete protein, it is offset by a proportionally saturated fat content and is perhaps inappropriately heavy on the cholesterol content.
Sprouts – the vegetable that only comes out at Christmas! I’m almost disappointed to reveal that they are genuinely fairly good for us as a food. They have a good amount of fibre, some essential minerals and a surprisingly large amount of vitamin C. My only issue is the flavour. On their own they have health benefits, but when you make them taste nice, with a good slug of cream and some crispy bacon bits, suddenly, the tangible healthy aspect becomes a little diluted.
The chasing pack – carrot, broccoli, cabbage and parsnip being the most common – you can easily research to discover they have good shares of fibre, carbohydrate, some protein and the regular scattering of vitamins and minerals. As long as they aren’t boiled to a pulp and the water thrown away, they have high nutritional value and can be classed as ‘good nutrition’.
I was unsure where to put the potatoes, roast being my personal favourite but mashed are, I believe, also seasonally popular. It seems from the data that roasting potatoes does reduce them to essentially carbohydrate with a light dash of fat (probably from what it is cooked in) and protein, but it has been suggested in various places that potatoes are generally a good food to be eating.
I could go on and examine the extras, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce… but that would make the post too long and it is as easy to check the label or be careful of what you put in if you are making it yourself, not from a jar or packet. The mine pies, christmas pudding and chocolate could also be analysed but it should be obvious from accepted common knowledge that too much of the sugary, processed or fat-heavy foods are not going to be good for us.
Not so bad after all then
It turns out that the traditional Christmas dinner is essentially good nutrition for us and we can probably cope with the slightly less healthy bits in the context of the whole.
Maybe the problem is the volume. A very sedentary day punctuated with vast quantities of Christmas dinner and extras is probably more of an issue than the nutrition content.
Do we need the large amount of food that we so often eat over a Christmas holiday or could we scale it back a little?
If it isn’t possible to exercise restraint in the Christmas dinner area, then part two of this post is going to deal with bringing back some normality and balance into the new year.
Well then, I’m off to buy a nice box of fresh, organic fruit and veg. (Right after I’ve finished this packet of chocolate biscuits.)