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Healthy Christmas eating

cranberries It's Christmas! Time to tuck into some tasty nibbles and a hearty Christmas lunch. But don't forget to check out our healthy festive tips.

Have a merry breakfast

granola with fruit pieces and yoghurt It's easy to overlook this important meal when the pressure is on to get the turkey in the oven. But breakfast can help give us all a good start to the day, so when you and your family delve into your presents, remember to tuck into a good breakfast too.

Try making your usual breakfast cereal special by serving it with pieces of fresh apple and pear. You could throw in a few nuts, or dried festive fruits such as figs, cranberries and dates.

Or why not add a handful of brightly coloured berries to your cereal, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or strawberries? You can usually buy berries frozen, even when they're out of season. Frozen fruit and veg, as well as fresh, tinned and dried, all count towards the 5-a-day fruit and veg target.

If you're a muesli person, why not jazz up your daily serving with several slices of fresh tangerine and banana, a few grapes and some yoghurt?

You could cook up some scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast. And, for a bit of luxury, serve them with a 'mulled juice' from a cocktail of cranberry, orange and fruits of the forest juices – just warm up the juices and serve with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

If children (or adults) need a snack to help keep them going until a late lunch, why not serve a plate of fruity breads, such as pannetone, currant buns or malt loaf? You could wash it down with home-made smoothies made from milk, yoghurt or juice and their favourite fruits thrown in. Try bananas, apples or clementines.

Christmas lunch is served

christmas decorations Before launching into your main course, you could try titilating your taste buds with light appetisers that won't ruin your appetite.

You could go for a selection of dips made with low-fat yoghurt and cucumber, avocado and tomato, or puréed sweet peppers. Serve with vegetable sticks made from raw carrots and cucumber, and toasted wholemeal pitta bread.

Or how about a warming winter vegetable soup for a quick and easy option? If you have time, you could make your own soup such as butternut squash with a hint of ginger.

If you use a ready-made soup why not liven it up with a dollop of half-fat crème fraîche or low-fat yoghurt and a sprinkling of herbs? And remember to check the label to look for those soups that are lower in salt.

Turkey and all the trimmings

turkey on a plate For lots of people, it just wouldn't be Christmas without a turkey.

But in fact, in this country the tradition of eating turkey at Christmas only dates from the 19th century, when it gradually began to replace goose as the Christmas meal.

This is good news in terms of healthy eating, because turkey contains more protein and much less fat than goose or duck. But try to avoid eating the skin because this is usually high in fat.

Nut roast has become the traditional Christmas dish for many vegetarians. For a festive twist, try adding cranberries (fresh or dried) or chestnuts.

And who could forget the roast potato, a vital part of the traditional Christmas lunch? Potatoes are a starchy food containing carbohydrate, which gives us energy, as well as fibre and other important vitamins and minerals. So pile them high! And if you cut them into larger chunks they will absorb less fat.

Tasty Christmas veg

sprouts Heaps of vegetables are another traditional part of Christmas lunch. Many people will eat more fruit and veg on Christmas day than on any other day of the year. And with so many different varieties to choose from, it should be easy to reach your five daily portions.

At this time of year there are lots of wonderful root vegetables in season. And these can add lots of colour and taste to your plate, not to mention the vitamins.

When you're cooking your veg, remember not to add salt to the water. Flavoursome winter vegetables are easy to make without that pinch of salt. You could try adding some herbs instead.

Carrots can be roasted, boiled, or braised in lemon juice and olive oil. And parsnips are an old Christmas favourite, with their sweet spicy taste. You can boil them, roast them, or use leftovers in soup.

Brussels sprouts are a Christmas staple but they're not to everyone's taste. Try making them a bit more exciting by mashing them into mashed potatoes or serving them with crispy bacon, crispy cheese crumbs or sweet chestnut crumble.

Cranberry sauce is great for adding flavour and colour to your festive lunch.

If you find it almost impossible to get your children to eat any veg, especially anything green, try serving some hidden portions. You could mix mashed swede or parsnip into mashed potato. Or cook up some bubble and squeak with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Or top steamed broccoli with a little grated cheese.

You could try steaming your vegetables, rather than boiling them, this way they won't lose as many vitamins. If you do boil your veg, you could use the cooking water to make the gravy. This is also a good way of making a healthy gravy because you won't need to use stock cubes, granules or powder, which all tend to be very high in salt.

Fruity Christmas pudding

christmas pudding Another Christmas classic is the Christmas pudding, with its rich concoction of dried fruits such as raisins, currants and sultanas.

But Christmas pudding isn't to everyone's taste. If you're after a lighter dessert, try serving a big fruit salad and make it extra special by adding some tropical fruits such as papaya and pomegranate. Make your own Christmas compote by stewing your favourite berries with plums, apples and cinnamon, and serve it up with some plain yoghurt. Or try poaching pears and serve with some low-fat yoghurt and a sprinkling of pomegranate.

Grapes and pears can make a great accompaniment to cheese.

Pace yourself

If you want to avoid that uncomfortably full feeling, try to eat slowly throughout the day. This will give you a better idea when you've eaten enough.

And if you feel full, try to resist the temptation to stuff in another mouthful! Take a break instead.

In the afternoon you could go for a gentle stroll to help burn off a bit of that lunch.

And of course it's a great time for kids (and adults) to try out new presents such as bikes, roller blades and footballs. If it's raining or snowing, how about playing an indoor game?

Feast on festive nibbles

walnuts By the time you sit down in front of the television, you might be ready for a few nibbles.

You could have a handful of unsalted nuts, some dried fruit or you might want to dig out that satsuma from the bottom of your Christmas stocking.

Clementines, tangerines and satsumas are all rich in vitamin C.

Nuts, dried figs and dates are good sources of a range of vitamins and minerals.

It's time for tea

christmas cake slice For late-afternoon snacks or an early supper, make some turkey sandwiches with thickly cut bread and pickles, or have a crunchy salad made with raw red or white cabbage, peppers and strips of carrot.

Trifle makes a popular dessert and you can bump up your fruit and veg portions by packing it full of fruit such as grapes, pineapple, mandarin segments, strawberries and kiwi fruit.

And don't forget those mince pies or a piece of Christmas cake. Try serving some slices of apple at the same time.

Loving those leftovers

sandwich stacked closeup Despite everyone's best efforts at tucking into the Christmas goodies, there are usually plenty of leftovers for Boxing Day.

So here are some ideas to help you love those leftovers without resorting to the traditional turkey curry:
  • you could make a warm winter soup with turkey, vegetables and noodles
  • make some Christmas bubble and squeak, with potatoes, sprouts and any other leftover veg
  • use leftover turkey to make sandwiches but add some fresh crunchy salad. You could try using a variety of tasty breads including wholegrain and seedy varieties
  • for a great snack use leftover meat to roll in a pancake with cheese, then bake in the oven
  • use your fruit and vegetables for some healthy snacks
  • add any dried fruit you have left over to a porridge or cereal for breakfast
Don't forget it's important to cool leftovers as quickly as possible (ideally within one to two hours) and then store them in the fridge to stop food poisoning bacteria growing.

It's also important to reheat food properly. Always make sure the food is steaming hot all the way through and don't reheat food more than once. Ideally you should use leftovers within two days. See the links below for more advice on keeping your leftovers safe.

All this goes to show that festive food can be healthy as well as tasty. So this year, make sure to eat, drink and be merry!