A Nutritionist Shares Her Christmas Cooking Tips & Recipes
I come from a big family of foodies, my granny is a chef and my first ever job was in her kitchen. I’ve been cooking from such a young age so it’s definitely part of my identity. My journey from food into nutrition wasn't as straightforward one; when I was 17, I was scouted to become a fashion model. The pressure of the industry destroyed my relationship with food and I ended up developing an eating disorder, which thankfully I was able to overcome. I then decided to go to university to study nutrition and the rest is history.
I love festive eating and drinking, but after a few days on the trot, I feel a bit sluggish. I tend to centre my meals on lean protein and low-starch vegetables after a party or meal out, one of my favourites being my ‘rebalance turkey soup’. I also incorporate low-intensity movement through long walks to help flush out my system. Lots of water and ginger tea too! It's not about restriction, but a sense of rebalancing your body.
Balance is all about nourishing both your mind and body. I always remind my clients that they have to respect both in order to be the best version of themselves. A lot of people think healthy eating is black and white, good or bad. I like to encourage people to remove the sense of guilt they have with food, to make sure we give our body what it needs from a nutritional point of view, while also having freedom. My recipes focus on making people go, ‘Wow that is delicious,’ as well as providing them with a dose of nourishment.
My favourite recipe from the book is my ‘so good’ stuffing. A recipe I’ve made for years, the combination of sweet apricots, soft courgettes, sausage meat, sage and breadcrumbs is delicious. It’s also great in a Boxing Day leftover sandwich – nothing beats turkey, cranberry sauce, roasted parsnips and stuffing. Add some sliced brie and toast, and it’s a game changer.
For a quick, healthy swap, try using chicken sausages in your stuffing and pigs in blankets for a slightly lighter touch. It will be higher in lean protein and lower in fat but still just as delicious.
One thing I like to indulge in at Christmas is sweet treats and puddings. There’s something about mince pies, tins of Quality Street and sticky toffee pudding. I definitely have a lot more sugar around this time of year, but it’s important to remember that health is determined by cumulative behaviours in the long term. A few weeks out of the year isn’t going to make a big impact.
If you’re hosting over Christmas, choose recipes you can prepare in advance. You want to prep and pre-cook 90% of your meal during the day. Clean down, set up the table and welcome your guests cool, calm and relaxed. A stressed host will affect the room, so choose something that is manageable and that you enjoy making. During the festive period, I love to cook my chicken lasagne with a side of homemade garlic bread which I can preassemble and pop into the oven as my guests arrive, filling the room with all the gorgeous smells. A few little canapés are always a good idea, too.
It’s the smallest things that feel extra special around Christmas. Cold, sunny winter walks, bundled up in fluffy knits, hats and a large scarf. Then, heading into a coffee shop for a flat white and mince pie while Christmas songs play in the background is just perfect.
I come from a very big family, so I’ll be spending this Christmas at home with 16 of us crammed around our dining table. We start the day with bubbles and present opening, having a Christmas brunch of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. We then all muck in for the dinner, peeling, prepping and basting, finally sitting down to the most amazing feast in the afternoon. The star of the show is always my mum’s golden and bubbling dauphinoise potatoes.
Christmas is always such a special time for me, and I truly believe the moments we share at this time of year are influenced by food. My new cookbook is about the memories we create during the festive season – and the type of food you want to laugh and smile over. There’s always a sense of balance in my cooking, but this book also has a hint of cheekiness which I love.
The Nutritionist's Christmas is available to purchase online at EmilyEnglish.com
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Feeling inspired? Em shares five recipes to try over the Christmas break…
TO START THE DAY: The Royal Christmas Breakfast
FOR A FESTIVE BRUNCH: Cinnamon Snow French Toast
FOR BOXING DAY SANDWICHES: My So-Good Stuffing
WITH LEFTOVERS: Rebalance Turkey Soup
FOR PUDDING: Cinnamon Swirl Mince Pie Swirls
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