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How food can help you have a healthy and sustainable Christmas

Written by NCGM
December 15, 2021

The British Nutrition Foundation is urging everyone to take five simple steps to enjoy more sustainable Christmas fayre. And as always when we talk about sustainability, fresh fruit and vegetables are to the fore.

As we come to the end of a year with so much focus on the health of the planet and increasing recognition that our food choices have an important impact on the environment, the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) is urging everyone to take five simple steps to enjoy more sustainable Christmas fayre.

Sara Stanner, Science Director at the BNF,said: “As the health of our planet and building a more sustainable future are at the forefront of our minds, we know that our diets have an important role to play. But this doesn’t have to mean we can’t enjoy delicious food. There are things we can all try to do to eat more healthily and sustainably over the holiday season, without spoiling the festive cheer!”

1. Get versatile with veg!

A traditional Christmas dinner is a great opportunity to include a range of different vegetables. We all know that eating plenty of vegetables is good for health and it is also an important part of an environmentally sustainable diet. In a survey carried out earlier this month, the BNF asked people what vegetables they would be including with their Christmas dinner and carrots (70%), brussels sprouts (64%) and parsnips (60%) top the list, with broccoli (38%), peas (38%) and cauliflower (34%) also featuring for many. Get the most out of your veg and avoid waste this festive season by finding different ways to use up your leftovers, for example, a winter slaw including sprouts and carrots; a soup to use up cooked parsnips; or a stir fry including leftover vegetables and turkey!

2. Plus pulses

Pulses such as beans, chickpeas and lentils are low in fat, provide plant protein and fibre and are usually an inexpensive store cupboard ingredient that you can have on standby for quick meals. When the BNF asked people if they were planning dishes containing pulses over the festive season, almost 1 in 4 said yes. If you are planning meat dishes over the festive season, why not add some pulses too? This can potentially save you money and make meals go further, as well as being good for the environment. You could try adding kidney beans to stews, lentils to soups or chickpeas to the traditional leftover turkey curry.

3.Fabulous fish

Eating fish is associated with health benefits and it is recommended that we include at least two portions of sustainably sourced fish a week, one of which should be an oily type such as salmon, mackerel or sardines. Salmon is a popular choice over Christmas and provides omega 3 fats that can contribute to heart health. Remember that frozen and canned fish are also healthy choices and may help avoid food waste. We can help to ensure a more sustainable future for seafood by choosing fish labelled as sustainably sourced, so look out for eco-labels on all seafood.

4.Go fruity

Citrus fruits are popular at Christmas; go to your local greengrocer to discover the incredible range of seasonal fruit that’s available. If you’re looking to increase your fruit consumption around a traditional Christmas, don’t just put a satsuma in your kids’ stockings - include apples, pears and dates with your cheeseboard, and why not try fruits such as berries in a Christmas porridge or dessert to help avoid waste.

5.Prepare and plan

There is a tendency to over-shop during the Christmas period so plan your meals to help make sure you use up everything you buy and cook:

  • Keep leftover turkey, for example, and make it into curry, risotto or a hearty stew for Boxing Day. Remember to add plenty of vegetables and pulses.
  • Keep leftover vegetables and turn them into a scrumptious bubble and squeak or combine them with home-made stock from the turkey bones for a delicious warming soup.
  • Freeze leftovers, share leftover food with family and friends or donate unopened food to a local food bank.

Most of all – have fun!

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