Ok, so a bit of a fun post really. Here is a quick nutritional round up of an average Chrismas dinner to try and give a rough ball park figure for how healthy a Christmas dinner is.
Lets start with the typical Christmas meal:
- ‘pigs in blankets’
- Roast potatoes
- Brussel sprouts
- Yorkshire pudding
- Some gravy/ cranberry sauce/ bread sauce
Here is the main nutrition:
Relatively lean protein, but contains very little else. There is some fat, a small amount of B vitamins and some minerals. 100g of turkey will provide:
- 27g protein
- 12g fat (22% RDA)
- 1.1mg panthanoic acid (11% RDA)
- 37.8mcg Selenium (54% RDA)
‘Pigs in Blankets’
Nutritionally these are very hard to determine as the ingredients in sausages vary widely. These are usually high in salt, fat and sulphates. The protein content can vary from 42% to 85%, and generally speaking there are very few vitamins and minerals in any significant quantities.
Roasting potatoes breaks down the complex carbohydrates into smaller carbohydrates making them quickly absorbed. Over roasting can result in burning them, which can result in cancerous acryliamide forming (black bits). Potatoes do contain some beneficial nutrients though, and 100g will provide:
- 21g carbohydrates (7% RDA)
- 9.6mg vitamin C (15% RDA)
- 535mg potassium (15% RDA)
- 0.2mg manganese (11% RDA)
Carrots are renowned for being high in beta-carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A by the body. 100g of carrots will give you:
- 8g carbohydrates (3% RDA)
- 3g fibre (12% RDA)
- 8333mcg beta-carotene (approx 300% RDA)
- 1.37mcg vitamin K (17% RDA)
Sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, and are known for their anti-cancer properties. 100g provides you with:
- 62mg vitamin C (103% RDA)
- 140mcg vitamin K (175% RDA)
- 60mcg folate (15% RDA)
- As well as unconfirmed amounts of sulforaphane and various phytonutrients
These can vary nutritionally, especially between home made and pre-made ones. However, they all are pretty low in micro-nutrients. Typically 100g will provide:
- 10g fat (16% RDA)
- 36g carbohydrates (12% RDA)
- 500mg Sodium (21% RDA)
Parsnips contains a small amount of a large amount of nutrients, both vitamins and minerals. 100g of parsnip will provide you with:
- 17g carbohydrates (6% RDA)
- 13mg Vitamin C (22% RDA)
- 58mcg folate (14% RDA)
Sauces such as gravy/ cranberry or bread sauce
These can all very greatly depending on the source, but generally speaking they are all high in simple carbohydrates, and with the potential exception of cranberry sauce, contain very few micro-nutrients.
There is always going to alcohol consumed at Christmas, and wine is probably the most common. There is very little benefits of white wine, and there is the obvious negative effects of the alcohol. However, red wine contains a polyphenol called resveratrol. This is a very powerful antioxidant which is beneficial for the cardiovascular system. This means, that in moderation, drinking red wine can be beneficial for the consumer.
So, is this meal healthy?
Christmas dinner will provide you will provide you with a number of nutrients, and the most nutrient dense food is the brussel sprouts. There is a significant amount of a number of vitamins, macro-nutrients, and minerals which are beneficial for the body.
There are negatives to this meal though. Pigs in blankets is the most nutrient barren food, and also will usually contain large amounts of sulphates from the bacon and sausages. The yorkshire puddings are also devoid of any significant micro-nutrients, but, if they are made at home will not contain any chemicals either.
How can Christmas Dinner be made more healthy?
This meal is already relatively healthy for a modern western diet. However, to improve it, swapping the parsnips for broccilli will increase the density of micro-nutrients in the meal. Using high quality organic sausages and bacon for the pigs in blankets will minimise the minimise the toxins in this meal. Drinking red wine (as opposed to white) will provide your body with the benefits on resveratrol, and maybe having one less yorkshire pudding.
These small changes will make Christmas dinner much more healthy without making too many changes to the flavour.
Image courtesy of mdid