Christmas: A Time to Celebrate Vegetables

Christmas: A Time to Celebrate Vegetables.

Food is such a massive part of what makes this time of year so special. What would a Christmas dinner be like without the traditional Brussels sprouts, delicious roast potatoes or juicy turkey and ham? The good news is, you don’t have to lose any of the taste to keep your Christmas dinner on the right side of healthy.

In fact, with new Irish Department of Health guidelines on diet and nutrition urging us to up our intake of fruit and vegetables considerably, it’s a great time of year to try a variety of new nutritious vegetable and potato dishes. The food pyramid, guides us on the correct amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that we should be eating daily to maintain good health. This revised pyramid also recommends that we should eat three to five servings of carbohydrates (such as potatoes) per day. Carbohydrates are essential in our diets to provide energy for our bodies, but in particular for brain function.

So if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration to prepare a healthy Christmas day meal, here are a few tips:

  1. Aim to have 1/2 of your plate made up of vegetables. By steaming them, you’ll maximise the nutrition and flavour.
  1. 1/4 of your plate should be your carbohydrate choice.  Potatoes provide a tasty, natural, fat-free option - aim to boil, bake or roast them while taking care with the amount of yellow fats added, to keep the saturated fat content lower. Potatoes in themselves are fat free – it’s what how we cook them (and what with) that can add fat content.
  1. Traditional turkey and ham are both excellent sources of many vitamins and minerals and important protein source. 

Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy eating plan, especially during the festive season.  There are so many great ‘in-season’ vegetable options to choose from this time of year. Many scientific studies have linked the consumption of fresh vegetables to lowering the risk of serious health problems such as certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Vegetables from the brassica family (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) and root veg (carrots, parsnips, swedes and turnips) are usually the most popular choices for Christmas, and are particularly well-known for their health benefits.

Brussels sprouts, have a unique flavour and taste. Like all vegetables from the Brassica family they are highly nutritious, being a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin

B6, vitamin K, minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and iron) and antioxidants. All Brassicas contain compounds called glucosinolates and flavonoids that medical studies have linked to anti-carcinogen properties. Like other vegetables they are fat free, gluten free, cholesterol free, low in calories and very low in sodium.

Carrots and parsnips are both from the same vegetable family and so their tastes complement each other beautifully on the plate. Both of these vegetables are a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin B1, vitamin E, as well as a lot of common minerals. They also contain a group of natural compounds, known as polyactylenes, which studies have shown that when consumed can be effective in tackling inflammation.

Beneficial chemicals within different plants have also been linked in their interactions with different enzymes in our bodies, to promote good health, so it is really important to eat a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables.

Vegetable Family

Vegetable Choices

Health Benefit

Green Leafy vegetables: Brassica vegetables (also known as cruciferous vegetables )

Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, rocket, pak choi,

Excellent source of Vitamin C and E, carotenoids, antioxidants and folate. Linked to reduced growth of prostate cancer

Root Vegetables

carrots, parsnips, swede*, turnip*

Excellent source of Vitamin A, B, C and iron

 

Swedes/Turnips are part of the Brassica family and have the same health benefits as brassicas