Are you going traditional or alternative with your Christmas Dinner?
Are you going traditional or Alternative with your Christmas Dinner?
We are creatures of habit in the UK, particularly when it comes to Christmas Customs. No matter how bonkers we will stick to them year after year without question. We are now into December and tradition dictates that it is time to get out the novelty Christmas jumpers, switch on Slade and sit back and tuck into our turkey dinners.
But is there a better choice for our Christmas dinner and are we brave enough to break from tradition?
Turkey Vs. The Rest
Well it seems only right to discuss Turkey which has been around for over 10 million years first as it is the nucleus of this article’s debate. Turkey breast being a primarily white meat is a healthy nutritional option being that it is low in saturated fat but high in protein and contains quantities of water soluble vitamins B and C alongside minerals such as zinc and iron. Turkey additionally releases amino acids (protein) and hormones such as acid tryptophan and selenium which both play a key role in supporting our immune system by acting as an antioxidant.
All sounds pretty good then, but like any meat there is a disadvantage to regular turkey consumption as well. In most circumstances processed turkey can be high in sodium (salt) which as you might know can raise your blood pressure and potentially lead to heart failure! To guarantee the quality of your turkey this Christmas try and buy organic and ensure its cooked till piping hot all the way through.
Half Time Interlude (Skin or No Skin!?)
The debate about eating the skin on cooked Turkey and other meats is an interesting one that still rages on to the present day. In a recent WH foods study researchers found no significant difference in pancreatic cancer risk between 2 control groups who consumed 1 to 4 ounces per day of Turkey; 1 group eating the meat with the skin on and 1 group eating the meat with the skin off.
These same results were not true for beef however, which was associated with a slightly increased pancreatic cancer risk. Nevertheless it’s worth noting that pasture-raised poultry and grass-fed beef were not standards used in this study. It would be expected that the risk-lowering benefits of all meats would increase if study participants consumed grass-fed and pasture-raised foods. Through clinical trials Lilian Cheung from the Harvard’s School of Public Health has found most skin on meats such as turkey contains more beneficial monounsaturated than saturated fats. If you are unaware monounsaturated fats can have a positive effect on weight loss and help to decrease cancer, cholesterol, heart disease and stroke. Despite being fine to eat you should still be cautious, especially women as the skin on most poultry meats is still more calorific and does have more saturated fat to it than skinless meat. In addition the skin on non-organic meat will have a higher amount of pesticides and other unwanted contaminants on it, the lesson again as true with all food is buy organic.
The Alternative Christmas Meats
Away from the half time skin debate and back to the second half. The conclusion to this article will now look over a few non-turkey Christmas dinner alternatives.
Much the same as turkey eating duck will provide you with a complete source of protein. The other similarity to turkey is that duck contains most of the same vitamins and minerals as mentioned above, however duck unlike turkey is also a good source of vitamin A which helps strengthen your eye sight and immune system. Don’t be put off by the appearance of duck fat on your plate either as it contains a high amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are both essential for your health and, moreover taste really good!
Christmas Recipe Suggestion – Try Jamie Oliver’s Roast duck with crispy potatoes & port gravy found on his website Jamie Oliver.com.
Goose meat is another delicious alternative to your more traditional Christmas meats, however it does have its short comings as it’s a fattier and more gammy meat than duck and actually has more saturated than monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Goose meat additionally has a lower vitamin content to it but as a counter balance is high in both iron and potassium.
Christmas Recipe Suggestion – For a classic Goose meal this Christmas try Gordon Ramsey’s recipe found on bbcgoodfood.com
Another excellent complete protein source is lamb which like Goose meat is also high in iron and zinc both essential for the immune system. Lamb additionally contains vitamin B12 which helps to maintain a healthy digestive and nervous system. Despite not personally agreeing with the red meat scare euphoria that seems to have emerged, it is worth remembering that there are recommendations in place based on research to not eat red meat more than once a week and limit your portion to only 8oz.
Christmas Recipe Suggestion – Look up deliaonline.com for Delia Smith’s ‘Roast Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary and Rosemary and Onion Sauce recipe’.
For those of you that don’t know Vension is a red meat commonly associated with eating deer, but the term can also apply to eating other animals such as elk and moose. In any guise venison offers a great complete protein, essential fat and vitamin B source and has been proven to be lower in calories and saturated fat than its often compared counterpart beef. Despite having virtually no saturated fat, venison does have a significant amount of cholesterol typically around 30% of your dietary value.
Christmas Recipe Suggestion – see deliaonline.com again for her unique ‘Venison Braised in Guinness and Port with Pickled Walnuts’ recipe.
For the non-meat eaters there is a Christmas alternative for you which hasn’t been mentioned yet, I refer to popular healthy vegetarian dish the ‘nut roast’. Nuts are nutritious as they are energy dense and contain fibre, potassium and monounsaturated fats. Published studies by the New England Journal of Medicinehave even identified nuts as being able to reduce the risk of heart disease. Therefore, a nut roast when served with lots with lots of vitamin rich vegetables is a very healthy meat alternative.
Christmas Recipe Suggestion – Try the ‘Nut & spinach roast with wild mushroom gravy recipe’ found on redonline.co.uk
Other Traditional Christmas Meats (Chicken, Beef and Pork)
Right so I realise that eating chicken, beef or even pork with your Christmas dinner is not that alternative and, for most is part of a normal routine so here is some further information about your other favourite festive foods.
Chicken is one of the most complete sources of protein and is a good source of minerals such as selenium, zinc, niacin your B vitamins and Vitamin E the super vitamin regards to antioxidant protection. To a slightly lesser degree beef and pork are also good protein and mineral sources but just be warned these latter two meats are also higher in saturated fats and have been linked with higher ‘bad cholesterol’ levels.
There we have it guys, that’s my festive nutrition overview of your dinner options this Christmas,I hope whether you stick to tradition completely, in part or go against it completely this article has given you some beneficial theory to underpin your choices.
For further more personalised guidance on your nutrition take a look at our personalised nutrition planner, designed for you by our qualified nutrition consultant. https://seanburgessfitness.com/personal-training/personalised-health-programmes/personalised-nutrition-programme/