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Healthy options and portion sizes

Christmas only happens once a year and we should all enjoy that special time. The trick is to make sure it doesn't go on from the beginning of December to mid-January.

When it comes to Christmas dinner, there are a few healthy choices you can make without taking away from its deliciousness.

  1. The skin on turkey or goose is where most of the fat is so removing the skin is a good idea. Before cooking, prick the skin to allow the fat to run out and cook the turkey on a trivet or an upturned ovenproof plate so it is not sitting in fat all the time.
  2. Replace sausage meat stuffing with a chestnut or fruit-based version. It's best to cook stuffing outside the turkey.
  3. Cut your potatoes bigger for roasting. Larger ones absorb less fat during roasting as they have a smaller combined surface area than the same amount of potato cut into smaller pieces. This also applies to parsnips. Parboil the potatoes, brush then with some olive oil and then finish off in the oven. Mashing the potatoes would be a healthier alternative to roasting them.
  4. Make bread sauce with skimmed milk. Add a clove of garlic to the milk for extra flavour.
  5. To make low-fat gravy, pour the turkey juices into a jug and wait for the fat to rise to the surface. Carefully pour or spoon off the fat before using the juices to make gravy.
  6. Serve a variety of vegetables with the main meal and use chopped fresh herbs or lemon zest to add flavour, rather than butter.
  7. Serve Christmas pudding with custard made with semi-skimmed milk or low-fat Greek yogurt rather than double cream or brandy butter.
  8. Try to keep active over Christmas. Family walks can be fun and can be enjoyed by all.

Video: Dr Catherine Conlon's healthy tips

In this video our Director of Human Health and Nutrition, Dr Catherine Conlon, has great advice on how to have a healthier Christmas. 

Portion sizes are important at Christmas so try to eat the same amounts as you normally would. Turkey and ham are favourites – you can trim the skin from your turkey or fat from your ham for a healthier option.

Sausage stuffing is great with Christmas dinner but maybe this year also include a delicious breadcrumb stuffing made with breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs, chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit like apricots and raisins.

Roast potatoes are also traditional favourites and making them with a little vegetable oil is a healthier alternative to butter. You can also make mashed potatoes with low fat milk or a splash of olive oil instead of butter.

For other vegetables, why not try honey or dash of lemon juice with carrots instead of butter. Parsnips and butternut squash are full of flavour while brussels sprouts is delicious topped with some crumbled, low-fat cheese. Steaming vegetables is a great alternative to boiling them, giving them great taste and texture, and is healthier too.

And if you can fit in Christmas pudding, why not wait and enjoy a smaller portion later on with some custard.

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