If sprouts are out, here are five delicious vegetable alternatives

A family eating christmas dinner

With Christmas rapidly approaching, our thoughts naturally turn to food. Indeed, one of the most controversial vegetables of all Christmas fayre is the humble Brussels sprout; you either love them or hate them! However, if sprouts are not your bag, there’s plenty of other delicious and healthy vegetables that can sit proudly on your dinner table.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top Christmas vegetables (other than sprouts!)

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

But first, just in case you can be tempted, the health benefits of Brussels sprouts are quite extraordinary. Not only high in immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene, they contain compounds called indoles that may help prevent some serious diseases but can also balance hormones, particularly in women suffering through the menopause.

So what’s the alternative?

BROCCOLI

A member of the same ‘crucifer’ family as Brussels sprouts, broccoli can also be hailed as a super food. With broccoli, it’s all about the colour; the darker the florets, the higher the nutrient value. The heads contain more nutrients than the stalks but it’s all good to eat.

Broccoli florets on a plate

Packed with vitamin C (great for immunity at this time of year), folic acid, iron and beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A as needed, broccoli is always going to make a statement on the dinner table. Lightly steam and then flash fry with some garlic and sesame seeds to enhance its appeal.

RAINBOW CARROTS

Carrots are traditionally orange but they can also be yellow and purple too! They all contain roughly the same nutrient profile but their varying colours mean they contain a variety of antioxidants, which is great news for the body. Plus, we all know that carrots help us to see better in the dark; that’s because they have very high amounts of beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A and is essential for night vision – certainly very necessary during the long winter nights!

A selection of rainbow carrots

Rainbow carrots are certainly going to bring some festive cheer to the dinner table. However, they also work really well alongside another winter vegetable super food…

BEETROOT

In season right now, wonderful beetroot works really well roasted alongside rainbow carrots – your Christmas dinner table will never have been so colourful! Beetroots are a great source of folic acid and heart-loving potassium.

Whole beetroots

To roast carrots and beetroot together, place them all in a roasting tin with some fresh orange segments, balsamic vinegar, thyme and a little golden syrup for a tasty side dish.

CELERIAC

Sometimes unceremoniously called ‘the ugly one’, celeriac, as the name suggests is part of the celery family. Whilst some people are not overly keen on celery, celeriac has a much more subtle flavour and also delivers some great nutritional benefits; it’s high in both vitamin C and potassium.

Celeriac on a table

For a really luxurious Christmas treat, celeriac can be mashed with crispy bacon, cream, butter, thyme and breadcrumbs. It can all be mixed in a food processor and then lightly grilled for a crispy topping.

LEEKS

Another vegetable in season during December, leeks are a versatile vegetable side or main dish option, over the Christmas period. Leeks are very high in potassium which is essential for a healthy heart and regulating blood pressure. Potassium is also great for the kidneys which may explain why leeks were used to treat kidney stones in traditional medicine.

Leeks in a wooden trough

As part of the same family as onions and garlic, they deliver many of the same health benefits. Try cooking them as a delicious oven-baked leek, bacon and cheese side or as a one-pot meal with chicken breasts, chopped celeriac, butter beans and thyme to really tempt the taste-buds.

So if you don’t fancy sprouts this Christmas, there are plenty of other delicious and healthy vegetables to choose from!

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Autumn Nutrition: top 5 seasonal foods

A plate with autumn leaves to represent autumn food and nutrition

As with any season, autumn brings its own wealth of foods in abundance. Fruits and vegetables always taste better when they’re eaten seasonally, and meats and fish may even be a little cheaper.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her 5 ‘what’s hot’ this autumn (and some are a little more unusual)!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

CELERIAC

It is often called ‘the ugly one’ because celeriac is so nodular, but once you’ve cut off the skin and the roots from the base, celeriac should be tried because it’s delicious. It’s closely related to celery (which lots of people avoid), but it has a much smoother taste and can be added to lots of different dishes.

Celeriac on a table

 

Celeriac works really well as a vegetable side boiled and then mashed with garlic and potato. It can also be made into delicious soup with Bramley apples (also now in season), a little cream and vegetable stock. Plus, it’s got a good nutrient profile, being high in vitamin C which supports the immune system and it is also great added to soups or stews, both for its taste and health benefits.

RABBIT

Interestingly, rabbit tends to be eaten more in other European countries, particularly Spain, than in the UK. However, it makes a great change to chicken and has a slightly more ‘gamey’ taste. Even better, wild rabbit is very lean because the animals have obviously been able to run around freely. Generally, rabbits are sold whole, mainly from butcher’s shops, and can be used in the same way as chicken. Rabbit is low in fat, high in protein and a good source of energising B-vitamins.

Rabbit stew

Rabbit works well in a one-pot dish. Add some onion, garlic, chicken stock and green olives and cook for just over an hour, for a really tasty and hearty autumnal dish.

MUSSELS

It’s peak season for mussels right now in the UK which will be great news for many people! Whilst we often associate mussels cooked with white wine and garlic as being traditionally French, it’s certainly a very popular dish closer to home.

Mussels should be tightly closed when they’re bought fresh. However, when they’re cooked (don’t forget to add some parsley and a little chopped onion), after about three or four minutes, they should open easily which proves their freshness. Any sauce can be soaked up with soft crusty bread.

Mussels in a pot

The dish itself is low in fat and mussels are high in the mineral selenium. It’s very often depleted in the UK diet and is a very powerful antioxidant, supporting the immune system as well as healthy hair and skin. Maybe a dish to be served at your next autumn dinner party?

WATERCRESS

Peppery, dark watercress leaves are among the healthiest of fresh salad vegetables. These leaves are a rich source of immune-boosting vitamins C and B6, plus beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Watercress is also a good source of iron, just like other dark, green leafy vegetables. In traditional medicine, it has long-been used to treat kidney and liver disorders, plus skin, and respiratory conditions; in short it seems to have wonderful restorative powers so now is certainly the time to be including it in your diet!

Watercress soup

One of the best recipes for watercress is in a soup. Simply fry up some chopped potato and onion, add some chicken stock and milk, boil until the vegetables are tender, then add the watercress and cook for another few minutes. The soup just needs to be popped through the blender and you’ve got yourself and really hearty, seasonal dish.

PLUMS

No autumn menu can be complete without plums! There are few fruits that come with such an array of colour variety. Plus, did you know that prunes are dried plums? Interestingly, they’re both very high in antioxidants although prunes tend to be an acquired taste and are often only used to ease constipation! They’re high in fibre but they also help to feed the beneficial gut bacteria.

Plums are also a great source of vitamin C and have been found to increase absorption of dietary iron.

A bowl full of plums

As with many fruits, plums are extremely versatile but keeping them simple is often the best way of preserving their wonderful flavour. They’re great sliced and added to breakfast cereal, they can be gently stewed and eaten with some natural yoghurt and sprinkled with seeds for an energising and quick breakfast, or served with savoury foods such as goat’s cheese in a salad.

So enjoy the wonderful tastes of autumn and relish the health benefits at the same time!

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How to get your five-a-day during December

Close up of a woman's hands holding a pile of cranberries

Our healthy diet can sometimes go awry during December. Festive functions and busy diaries mean that eating healthily becomes, potentially, more difficult, and that includes getting the recommended ‘five-a-day’ of our fruits and vegetables. However, there are some delicious ways of eating foods in season right now to maximise their health benefits. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some of her favourites!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES

Maybe not top of everyone’s ‘wish-list’ but Jerusalem artichokes provide some wonderful health benefits.

One of their top ‘claims to fame’ is that they boost our beneficial gut bacteria. This helps to improve mood and motivation because it stimulates the production of serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone. It may also help to avoid winter SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which affects so many people, making them feel low through the cold, dark months.

Jerusalem artichokes are delicious simply chopped lengthwise and roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

CRANBERRIES

Not surprisingly, cranberries are in season right now!  But don’t just eat them once a year with your turkey; cranberries can offer some wonderful health benefits throughout the winter months.

Cranberries are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamin C so are great to eat at this time of year when the immune system needs a boost.  Plus, cranberries are brilliant at fighting urinary tract infections; they stop bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

If you’re prone to bladder infections, then the best advice is to regularly drink sugar-free cranberry juice and include dried cranberries in granola or muesli recipes, or your other favourite cereals.

CELERIAC

Often called ‘the ugly one’ because of its very rough physical appearance, celeriac’s rich nutritional benefits and distinct taste means it is quite an interesting vegetable!

It is part of the celery family and, just like celery, is rich in potassium which is great for the heart.  Both vegetables are particularly helpful in reducing blood pressure.

Celeriac is quite difficult to peel but once prepped it’s great as a vegetable side mashed with butter and black pepper.  Even better, celeriac can be roasted whole in the oven which means it doesn’t even need to be peeled!  Wash the outer skin and cut off the top.  Sprinkle with some olive oil, garlic, herbs and seasoning.  The celeriac should then be wrapped in foil and cooked in the oven for around two hours.  Once cooked, it’s easy to spoon it out of the skin and serve with some butter.

APPLES

‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ as the old wives’ tale goes, and apples certainly deliver some great health benefits which can be enjoyed during December.

Apples are packed with pectin fibre which helps to keep cholesterol levels under control.  Additionally, they contain a flavonoid called quercetin, a natural antihistamine that helps to calm allergies.

Apples are also used to make cider vinegar, which provides even more health benefits; it helps the digestion, eases joint pain, helps with weight loss and is great for the skin.  Indeed, its health benefits are as valuable as eating an apple a day.  Have a dessertspoonful before each meal.

KALE

Kale, with its rich dark green leaves, is in season right now and is great to add to your five-a-day. It’s packed with vitamin K, which is heart-protective, and folic acid and iron which support high energy levels.  It’s also full of fibre and low in calories and fat – a real winner!

Some people find kale’s fairly strong flavour slightly off-putting!  However, its makes an excellent addition to any pasta dish, such as chicken and bacon rigatoni, where there are also some other strong flavours, which combine really well.  Add a sprinkling of parmesan and black pepper and you’ve got yourself a wonderful mid-week meal to keep you running up until Christmas!

So even though time might be pressured over the next few weeks, you can still give your body plenty of nutrients to ensure you’re fully able to enjoy this Festive period.

 

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Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

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Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts