Step away from the buffet: The recipe to eating a healthy festive dinner

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

it’s still possible to enjoy festive foods and indulge in the Christmas feast without overdoing it (credit: iStock/Alex Raths)
it’s still possible to enjoy festive foods and indulge in the Christmas feast without overdoing it (credit: iStock/Alex Raths)

Related tags: Nutrition, Vitamin

It’s no secret that people eat more than usual during the festive season, but the buffet holds nutritional promise too. We visited a few...

If you need a quick energy boost, restful sleep, or a strong immune system, have a look at FoodNavigator’s guide to Christmas dinners eaten worldwide and what you should eat to ensure a healthy end to 2015:

UK
Cranberry_free_iStock
Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C and have long been used for their anti-inflammatory protection. (credit: iStock.com)

Typical Christmas dinner: ​Roast turkey or roast goose, nut roast, roast potatoes; brussels sprouts; stuffing; chipolatas or pigs in blankets; cranberry sauce; with dessert of Christmas pudding (or plum pudding) and brandy butter.

FoodNav verdict: ​Brussel sprouts are high in omega-3 fatty acids and glucosinolates, which help to prevent types of cancers. Turkey is a great source of protein and contains high levels of tryptophan which helps to maintain a good mood and sleep. Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C and have long been used for their anti-inflammatory protection. The vegetarian alternative, nut roast provides a lot of dietary fibre.

While not especially healthy, Christmas pudding does contain raisins, which can help control high blood pressure, provide energy-boosting iron and are rich in protective antioxidants. Meanwhile sultanas are a source of calcium, magnesium and manganese which strengthen bones and help head off osteoporosis. The currants give a handy boost to levels of friendly gut bacteria to strengthen the immune system.

US
turkey meat
Turkey is a great source of protein and contains high levels of tryptophan which helps to maintain a good mood and sleep. (credit: iStock.com)

Typical Christmas dinner​: Ham, turkey or roast beef, cranberry sauce, stuffing or dressing, corn, squash, and green beans are common. Desserts include pumpkin pie, marzipan, and mince pie.

FoodNav verdict: ​Along with turkey’s protein and tryptophan, green beans are a wonderful source of vitamin A and C, manganese and phytochemicals which gives them antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics. The US Christmas dinner also adds cranberries’ anti-inflammatory protection and ability to fight off urinary tract infections. Pumpkin contains fibre-rich beta-carotene, which is good for the eyes and may help prevent some types of cancer and atherosclerosis.

France
oyster shellfish seafood
Oysters can provide you with high levels of heart and brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids (credit: iStock.com)

Typical Christmas dinner: ​Foie gras; oysters; smoked salmon; lobster; roasted duck, goose or turkey with chestnuts, green beans and courgettes. For dessert, it’s a 'La Buche de Noel' a cream cake that comes in chocolate and hazelnut.

FoodNav verdict :​Salmon contains plenty of omega 3 fats which help protect against heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The fish also contains vitamin B12 and selenium, to help protect against cancer. Green beans and courgettes are full of vitamin A and C as well as manganese and phytochemicals which give them antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics. Oysters can provide high levels of heart and brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and enough zinc to strengthen the body's immune system.

The Netherlands
produce salad
Salads that contain nuts, seeds or beans can help lower cholesterol and keeps blood sugar balanced. (credit: iStock.com)

Typical Christmas dinner: ​Roast beef, duck, rabbit, pheasant or roasted or glazed ham, served with potatoes and salads.

FoodNav verdict: ​Potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, antioxidants, and fibre. Roast beef is a rich source of zinc, B vitamins and other essential nutrients, which help with your immune system and heart health. Important minerals found in pheasant are iron, phosphorus and selenium, as well as niacin. These minerals assist in maintaining bone strength and your immune system, as well as protecting you against cancer due to its antioxidant properties. Salads that contain nuts, seeds or beans will give you a boost of soluble fibre that helps lower cholesterol and keeps blood sugar balanced.

Denmark

Typical Christmas dinner: ​Roast pork, goose or duck served with potatoes, red cabbage and gravy. Desert can be rice pudding. A traditional Christmas drink is Gløgg, which has a high alcohol percentage.

FoodNav verdict: ​Roast pork delivers iron, potassium and other essential nutrients, while being about as lean as chicken. Red cabbage is a wealth of phytochemicals, antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. All are essential in fighting cancer and heart disease. The indoles in red cabbage have been connected to reducing breast cancer in women in a number of studies.

Rice pudding, when made with natural ingredients, can be a healthier alternative to ice cream and other treats. It can offer both vitamin D and calcium to maintain healthy bones and teeth.

Finland
salmon
Gravlax, a salmon delicacy, is a rich source of vitamins B6 and B12 as well as magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and selenium. (credit: iStock.com)

Typical Christmas dinner: ​The main dish is usually a large Christmas ham. Fish, usually lutefisk and gravlax, is also served, along with laatikot casseroles with liver and raisins, and potatoes, rice, and carrots. The traditional Christmas beverage is either alcoholic or non-alcoholic mulled wine.

FoodNav Verdict: ​Mulled wine contains resveratrol, an anti-oxidant that protects against heart health, cancer and other diseases. Fish has a host of health benefits that have been well-documented. Gravlax, a salmon delicacy, is a rich source of vitamins B6 and B12 as well as magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and selenium. Lutefisk is made from stockfish (air-dried fish) that contains very low salt, some vitamin D and B, and plenty of selenium. Liver provides omega-3s EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docasahexaenoic acid), and AA (arachidonic acid), as well as vitamin B12 to keep our brains healthy

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