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Ho Ho Ho – What Do You Want For Christmas? Honestly? Vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients…

Enjoy dairy this Christmas
Enjoy dairy this Christmas

It’s Christmas again and whether or not we get our Christmas parties and extended family gatherings this year, we will undoubtedly be indulging ourselves more than usual. It’s a time when caution is thrown to the winds and a little more of this and another half a glass of that seem wholly justified and completely acceptable.

The National Dairy Council wants people to celebrate – with seasonal favourites such as custard, brandy butter, cheeseboards and Irish coffees – but we also want people to make sure they’re getting the right balance of the nutrients they need.

And that should mean milk. Milk is hugely versatile and can be incorporated into various Christmas snacks and recipes. A 200 ml glass of semi-skimmed milk provides only 95 kcal, yet it is a source of eight essential nutrients, contributing to daily requirements for protein, calcium, vitamins B2, B12 and B5 and the slightly more obscure iodine, potassium, and pantothenic acid. Which is great – but what do they actually do?

All of these essential nutrients play specific roles in the body, for example calcium and protein are needed for normal bone and muscle function, B-vitamins and phosphorus contribute to energy metabolism, iodine contributes to brain and thyroid function, while potassium contributes to normal blood pressure.

The Department of Health’s healthy eating guidelines advise three servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet – one serving could be a 200ml glass of milk, 125g yogurt or 25g cheddar cheese.

Here are a few seasonal suggestions to get your servings of dairy and keep some balance during the festive season:

  • A warm bowl of milky porridge sprinkled with cinnamon and dried cranberries
  • Some Irish Brie-style cheese and cranberry sauce in your turkey sandwich
  • Hot chocolate made with milk and Christmas spices such as nutmeg
  • Stewed seasonal fruit with natural yoghurt or custard
  • A small Irish cheeseboard with fresh grapes and figs instead of a dessert

Of course, it’s Christmas and we’ve all been guilty of looking down at our plate and wondering “where did it all go?” Simply put – we’ve gobbled it without noticing, because we were thinking of something else – probably finishing off that box of chocolates while watching a Christmas movie! This where the concept of ‘Mindful Eating’ comes in.

Mindful Eating is about being conscious of, and paying attention to, what we are eating – taking time to enjoy how it looks, tastes and smells….getting more experience and satisfaction from what we eat. Consciously enjoying our food, being in the moment without distractions, means that we don’t have to eat as much to feel fulfilled.

Slow down, enjoy how good it looks, savour the flavours, think about portion sizes and remember, extra food and leftovers are just the makings of another delicious meal in the future.

Christmas is a time to allow yourself a little bit of food freedom and therefore making sure you get the basics right is even more important than normal. And if we do get the opportunity of a Christmas party it’s good to remember that a small carton of plain yogurt with a banana, a bowl of cereal with milk or some cheese and biscuits before you hit the town may be of help when it comes to the inevitable morning after!

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