Roast turkey

A Dozen Ways to Make Christmas Dinner Lower in Calories but still Feel as Stuffed as the Turkey

By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Most Christmas lunches are packed with nutrients thanks to them containing turkey and veg. But all the extras can quickly tot up the calories, too. Here’s how to enjoy your meal without breaking the calorie bank.

  1. Turkey is a great option for slimmers. It’s packed with protein, which helps fill you up, and provides many other nutrients including zinc, a mineral that keeps the immune system in tip-top shape. But best of all, turkey is lower in fat and calories than many other meats, especially if you go for the breast. A 90g serving of roasted, skinless turkey breast contains just 140 calories and 1.8g fat compared with 160 calories and 5.9g fat in the same sized serving of dark meat.
  2. Don’t smother the turkey with oil, butter, margarine or lard when you cook it. If you must use something, use a pastry brush to add a light covering of oil rather than pouring or spooning it over. Remember, just 1tbsp oil contains 100 calories and 11g fat!  
  3. Before tucking into your meal, remove the skin from the turkey. Just 15g contains a massive 70 calories and 6g fat – and it’s gone in a mouthful!  
  4. Pile your plate high with traditional seasonal vegetables such as red cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts, swede and cauliflower. The more colours you have on your plate, the greater the variety of nutrients. You’ll retain more vitamins and minerals, too, if you steam veggies rather than boiling them – and you’ll be less likely to add salt. Finally, don’t serve veg smothered in butter. Just 1tsp will add 35 calories and 4.1g fat to your meal.  
  5. Use less fat to roast potatoes and parsnips. Parboil them first, then brush lightly with oil rather than pouring straight from the bottle. Pop them into the oven and you should have delicious, crispy roasties that aren’t loaded with oil. Keep them in large pieces, too, as this reduces the amount of fat they absorb.  
  6. If you’re going to use the meat juices to make the gravy, drain off any fat first.  
  7. Make your own stuffing with chopped chestnuts, which contain just 2.7g fat per 100g. It’s a better option than sausage meat, which provides around 32g fat per 100g! To keep the fat content down further, use a spray oil to fry onion if you plan to use it in stuffing.  
  8. If you’re using a packet mix of stuffing, avoid adding the recommended knob of butter – no one will miss it when it’s smothered in gravy!  
  9. Use low-fat chipolata sausages and lean back bacon to make the sausage and bacon rolls that are traditionally served with turkey.  
  10. Beware of all the extras such as cranberry sauce, bread pudding and white sauce. They add calories but little else – allow 25 calories for 1tsp cranberry sauce, 40 calories for an average serving of bread sauce made with semi-skimmed milk and 20 calories for 1tbsp white sauce made with semi-skimmed milk.  
  11. If you can’t resist the Christmas pudding, have just a small serving. An average 100g portion contains a massive 330 calories and 11.8g fat.  
  12. Choose your pudding partner carefully. Surprisingly, custard contains more calories per typical serving than cream or brandy butter, even if you make it with skimmed milk! Bottom line: you might be better off opting for a dollop of cream if you can limit yourself to just one tablespoon. Check out the chart below.
Pudding partners Calories Fat g
Creams per 1tbsp
Half cream 22 2
Reduced-fat crème fraiche 25 2.3
Single cream 30 2.9
Crème fraiche 55 5.8
Double cream 67 7.2
Clotted cream 88 9.5
Brandy butter 98 8.4
Custard per 150ml
Made with skimmed milk 110 0.1
Low-fat ready-to-serve 110 2.1
Made with semi-skimmed milk 135 2.7
Ready-to-serve 142 4.5
Made with full-fat milk 165 6.4

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