Nutritious seasonal eats this December

Woman preparing christmas dinner

With the festive season now upon us, supermarkets are packed with chocolates, cakes, puddings and treats! However, let’s not forget that we can still enjoy healthy treats and get a boost of vitamins and minerals at the same time. There are plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables in season in December, and with a little thought they can really excite the taste buds!

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five fruits and vegetables this Christmas, together with her recipe suggestions.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

PEARS

These sometimes get forgotten and pushed aside for the more popular apple. However, pears are real winners both for their taste and nutrient content.

They’re high in immune-boosting vitamin C and heart-loving vitamin K. If you eat them with the skin on, they’re also rich in fibre; more than many other fruits and vegetables, around 40% of a pear’s health benefits lie just under the skin.

Pear, goats cheese and walnut salad

Pears work really well simply sliced in a salad with goat’s cheese, varied leaves and walnuts, which retains maximum nutrient benefits. However, at this time of year, they’re wonderful poached with lemon zest, ginger, a cinnamon stick, allspice and some apple cider. They can be served with vanilla ice-cream for a real treat, eaten cold as a desert or sliced over your morning porridge for a warming start to the day.

RED CABBAGE

Whilst white (also known as green) cabbage is the most commonly eaten, its nutrient benefits slightly fade into the background when compared to its red counterpart. As with all fruits and vegetables, the secret to its nutritional benefit lies in its colour; red cabbage is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants. This is especially helpful at this time of year. It also contains lots of anti-inflammatory compounds which is welcome news for those suffering from aching or painful joints during the winter months.

Red cabbage stewed with apples

One of the nicest ways to use red cabbage is braised with apples. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to any meat or is great on the Christmas dinner table. It’s so easy cooked in a pot, with onions, apples, balsamic vinegar, allspice and sliced apples. Cook slowly in the oven for an hour or so – the smell is wonderful.

CAULIFLOWER

Cauliflower has become one of the most popular vegetables in recent times. Even better it’s in season right now. As with many fruits and vegetables, the most prominent nutrient in cauliflower is vitamin C. However, it’s rich in most of the B-vitamins as well as the important trace minerals magnesium and manganese. These nutrients are better retained when cauliflower is steamed rather than boiled.

Cauliflower cheese

In terms of serving, a perennial favourite dish is cauliflower cheese which is often a Boxing Day lunch staple. However, it works really well as a one-pot curry with chickpeas, cumin, curry powder, onions, lentil and almonds. Cauliflower rice is also really popular with those watching their weight or following the Paleo Diet. Placed into a food processor it then gets broken down into rice-sized pieces. Simply heat through with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper.

CLEMENTINES

Always popular in Christmas stockings for their delicious, juicy and sweet taste, clementines are perfectly in season right now. Not only are they packed with vitamin C, they contain limonin which may help reduce blood cholesterol levels – another reason why they could be useful during the season of over-indulgence!

Clementines on wooden board

They’re also fabulous used in many recipes and work really well with our Christmas staple vegetable, the Brussels sprout. We tend to have a love/hate relationship with these little green vegetables, but when braised in the oven with sliced clementines, shallots, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and walnuts, they really come alive!

CRANBERRY

No Christmas table would ever be complete without cranberries. They deliver some wonderful health benefits, most notably for the urinary tract. Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria, and cranberries are able to prevent the E. coli bacteria from attaching to the wall of the urinary tract.

CRanberry sauce in small ceramic jug and cranberries on wooden board

Importantly, whilst, cranberry sauce makes a wonderful accompaniment to turkey, they work really well in a muesli recipe or in homemade energy bars. Simply mix dried cranberries with golden syrup, sunflower seeds, desiccated coconut, oats, butter and sultanas for a delicious tray-baked, portable energy snack – much needed during the tiring month of December.

So alongside the traditional sweet treats of Christmas, treat yourself to some delicious and nutritious fruit and veg this season and reap their amazing health benefits.

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Celebrate ‘Best of British’ with these home-grown, nutrient-boosting foods

Once again, it’s British Food Fortnight which is the biggest annual, national celebration of British food and drink.  And there’s much to celebrate!  It’s  a chance for us to fully embrace great British foods on offer and those particularly in season right now. And eating seasonally means we are getting foods at their most nutritious.

With that in mind, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite British foods for autumn.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

DOVER SOLE

Although cod is still the most consumed fish in Britain Dover sole is many people’s favourite flat fish! Dover sole has a longer and narrower shaped body than other flat fish and delivers a wonderful, almost sweet taste, with flaky texture when cooked. And it’s good to know that British fish is always responsibly and sustainably sourced.

Aside from its delicious taste, Dover sole is super-healthy with only around 100 calories per 100 grams and very low in fat.  It’s also high in protein.  However, it’s all about the cooking because frying can really increase the calorie and fat content due to the high surface area of the fish. Dover sole is much better lightly seasoned with flour and then grilled.

APPLES

Think of autumn fruit and thoughts will always turn to apples. Whilst we see apples in the supermarkets all year round, British apples are now in season.  This means they should be cheaper and we’re also giving our bodies exactly what they need at the right time of year by eating seasonally. The flavour, texture and scent of in-season apples will also be enhanced.

Interestingly, imported apples are often stored for months in a cool environment where the oxygen balance has been chemically lowered.  This halts the natural maturing processes, so they can be kept for several months without going soft.  However, when the fruit is then exposed to normal temperatures, in the supermarket, it will mature quickly and go soft.  The longer storage times will lead to depleted nutrient levels in the fruit, especially vitamin C, so this is another great reason to eat in season!

Apples are so versatile in many recipes and make a perfect high fibre, on-the-go snack.  But with British pork also in season, roast pork with apple sauce would be an excellent menu choice.

POTATOES

Potatoes are a great staple family food; filling, high in vitamin C and fibre.  And they’re definitely best eaten in season and fresh, not only for the taste, but also for retaining vitamin C (which starts depleting as soon as potatoes are harvested).  Once bought, potatoes prefer to be taken out of their plastic packaging and not stored in the fridge.  They’re also best stored in a cool cupboard as they don’t like too much light.

Many people resist eating potatoes, worrying they are fattening.  But it’s often the lashings of butter, the frying, or the cream in a potato dauphinoise that adds the calories!  Whilst jacket potatoes have a high carbohydrate content, if they’re eaten with some protein such as tuna, for example, the meal has much less effect on blood sugar levels.  And as a potato’s best source of nutrients and fibre is found in the skin, it’s a win-win!

CHICKEN

Another staple in the British diet, chicken is certainly at its best during food fortnight and moving into the autumn season.  British chickens are very safe and are generally vaccinated against salmonella, a bacteria that can cause nasty food poisoning.  We’re actually very proud of our quality chickens and they must meet criteria based on the Assured Chicken Production standards; these products have a distinctive red tractor logo.

Recipe ways with chicken are endless and with its high protein content (more than fish) and being a low fat meat, it’s always going to be a popular choice for many of us.  Chicken also contains the whole family of B vitamins which provide us with energy.

In terms of taste, chicken works equally well with sharp flavours (think lemon chicken), spicy dishes (fragrant, Thai curries) or sweet recipes (such as sweet and sour chicken).

Chicken broth is also a firm favourite during convalescence, particularly after a viral infection such as the flu.  Chicken broth naturally works as a decongestant and is especially effective and nutritious when stock from boiled chicken bones are used.  It’s easy to digest, and is a great source of protein and energising vitamins.

PEARS

Another great British grown fruit, pears are totally delicious at this time of year.  Pears are one of the least allergenic foods and are well tolerated by nearly everyone.  They’re also very appropriate as a weaning food and in exclusion diets.  Moreover (just like apples), pears provide good levels of vitamin C, fibre from pectin and heart-loving potassium.

Pears are perfect in sweet or savoury dishes: try them with a blue or goat’s cheese salad, with chocolate in a pudding, in a crumble with blackberries or with duck breast pan-fried.

Whichever foods you choose, British foods in season are always going to be high quality and you’ll be supporting local and national businesses to ensure continuing high standards whilst getting the best levels of nutrition.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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