Christmas is a non-stop foody temptation but I still maintain, as I do all the year round, that food should be a joy and not add to any stress. Christmas shouldn’t really change how we fundamentally eat – remembering the 80/20 rule (eating well most of the time – i.e. 80%) will probably get shifted to 70/30 but the main thing is to really enjoy your Christmas and whilst eating some of the things you wouldn’t normally eat there are always tweaks that can be done.

Christmas pudding
I love Christmas pudding but have a small portion and fill up the plate with a winter fruit salad - full of berries, pomegranate, plums, oranges and red apples. That deep red/purple colour is packed with antioxidants and vitamins. Add some cinnamon for extra oomph as well as a tang of Christmas cheer. Make plenty of the winter fruit salad so you can add it to your morning porridge, giving it a Christmassy twist.

Christmas dinner
Regarding Christmas dinner, buy as good quality a turkey or goose that you can afford. As we always suggest, make sure your plate is half full of vegetables and have a smaller portion of the meat. The key here is to have a variety of veg – so ensure there’s some green leafy vegetables on your plate like cabbage, spinach and broccoli alongside the Brussel sprouts. The colourful veg such as beetroot, carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are crucial too. The garlic family is always important so you can’t go far wrong with an onion gravy as well as some garlic being thrown in. Brussel sprouts are a traditional Christmas veg as well as being important members of the Brassica family. Ensure you don’t overcook them – steam them so they still have a bit of crunch or chop them up into slices and stir fry with some garlic in a wok. Absolutely delicious and a far cry from the grey soggy things many of us were served at school. Also don’t just eat them at Christmas but throughout the winter when they are in season.

Vegetarian and vegan options
If you are a vegetarian or vegan you can never go wrong with a colourful veggy curry packed full of different veg and go heavy on the herbs and spices, which are power houses of nutrients.

Don’t forget the chestnut stuffing. Chestnuts are often overlooked but are an important food because they contain ellagic acid; a highly beneficial natural chemical that many of the berries also contain. So ensure there’s plenty of chestnut stuffing to go round and a nice addition to the Christmas week is a mushroom/chestnut soup.

Chocolate
Chocolate is always in abundance at Christmas. One tradition I’ve knocked on the head is having a huge tin of Quality Street chocolates, which is just an excuse to overeat. I haven’t had too many complaints – everyone fights over the same chocolate and the same ones get left so this is a tradition that I’m not sad to say goodbye to. There’s lots of decent dark chocolate available now (go 75%+) which has tiny amounts of sugar in comparison to milk chocolate. Always think quality over quantity and enjoy and savour every mouthful.

Christmassy snacks
Snacks should be unsalted, uncovered nuts (especially almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts) plus some seeds. Olives and unsalted popcorn are another good choice.

Leftovers
Don’t forget the leftovers – often the best bit – a turkey stir fry with lots of veg and herbs is a fabulous post Christmas supper and being a lighter meal is especially kind on the post Christmas bloated tummy.

 

- Sarah Hughes, Nutritional Therapist & Medical Herbalist at Breast Cancer Haven, Yorkshire