I hope everyone has had a splendid day full of festive cheer… but lets get onto the eating. At the moment I am sitting watching Alan Carr’s Chatty Man and feeling like a stuffed turkey, and I am sure that I am not the only one eh? Christmas Day is perceived as a nationwide ‘cheat day’, however should we even be considering that the feast of a meal we have all consumed is a ‘cheat meal’? The basics of a Christmas dinner (for the most of us) would be meat, veg and potatoes, and this does conform to, depending on how everything is cooked, the guidelines set out by the NHS in the Eatwell Guide.
Okay so you may pass this by if you are veggie/ vegan but, for the majority of us, this is the main staple of a Christmas meal. I have narrowed it down to three main meats consumed in a regular persons dinner:
So turkey is a very very very lean meat, with 100g containing 31.2g of protein and only 4.6g of fat. But what does this mean? There are slightly less calories per 100g than a more fatty meat so could be considered a ‘healthier’ option. It is also high in multiple minerals: zinc, which is used in carbohydrate metabolism, protein and fat synthesis and immune function; potassium, needed for nervous and heart function; and phosphorous needed for bone and teeth formation.
Turkey’s small but mighty counterpart, many of the same nutritional values are similar to its larger cousin. It is marginally higher in calories per 100g (177 as opposed to 166 in turkey) which can be explained by a slight increase in fat (7.5g) and a decrease in protein (27.3g). SCIENCE FACT: Fat contains 9kcal per gram whereas protein only contains 4kcal per gram. These small differences should really be overlooked, as chicken is still a lean and healthy meat. As well as being high in potassium and phosphorous like turkey, it is also high in niacin (a B vitamin) which help the body use carbohydrates for energy.
Okay okay okay, so this is a more fatty meat BUT there are some nutritional benefits. Firstly, fat is NOT bad for you, if eaten in moderation, as it is needed for energy, fat-soluble vitamin absorption and organ protection. It also has a high iron content, which is needed for oxygen transport and, out of all the vitamins and minerals, has the highest number of deficiencies in humans.
So there is a reason that we all need to have 5-a-day…. because vegetables are one of the key dietary sources of the main vitamins and minerals, and there are LOADS in a Christmas roast!
Love them or loath them they are a staple of a Christmas dinner. Nutritionally they are a provider of potassium, folate which helps growth and cell maintenance, and vitamin C which helps make collagen, a protein making up connective tissue, aids hormonal reactions and immune function.
Roast carrots drizzled in honey is how my family cook them at Christmas, and we eat them by the ton! Carrots contain a whopping amount of retinol (vitamin A), which has roles in the body associated with growth and immunity.
The cousin of carrots, parsnips don’t contain as much vitamin A, however they can provide us with folate and a massive amount of potassium.
Roasted, mashed, boiled, sautéed, whatever you fancy, potatoes are the starchy carbohydrate staple in your mammoth Christmas meal, providing energy to get you through the charades and boardgames that may follow later on in the evening.
The basics of the Christmas dinner are very healthy… so the only unhealthiness on the rest of the day may be the Quality Streets and Christmas pudding consumed throughout the rest of the day…
MacPhail, A. (2012) ‘Iron’ in Mann, J. and Truswell, A (eds.) essentials of human nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 157-170.
Mohanty, B. et al. (2016) ‘Micronutrient Composition of 35 Food Fishes from India and Their Significance in Human Nutrition’, Biological Trace Element Research, 174(2), pp 448-458.
Samman, S. (2012) ‘Zinc’ in Mann, J. and Truswell, A (eds.) essentials of human nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 171-174.
Sandstead, H. (2012) ‘Zinc Nutrition from Discovery to Global Health Impact’, Advances in Nutrition, 3(5), pp 718-719.
Thurnham, D. (2012) ‘Vitamin A and carotenoids’ in Mann, J. and Truswell, A (eds.) essentials of human nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 197-216.
Truswell, S. (2012) ‘The B Vitamins’ in Mann, J. and Truswell, A (eds.) essentials of human nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 217-235.
Truswell, S. and Mann, J. (2012) ‘Vitamins C and E’ in Mann, J. and Truswell, A (eds.) essentials of human nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 236-246.