Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 3

Getting through these fast, already onto G in this little series of posts on the things I’m going to do to survive Christmas and avoid taking steps backward after all of the hard work I’ve done. I was thinking, some of the things which work for me this year will be the beginning of  new habits to take into the rest of my life. Being healthy isn’t just for Christmas…

G is for Goose

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The Turkey is often the fowl of choice for a Brit Christmas dinner but not so long ago it was geese which panicked as the dark nights set in and the frosts began to appear. Thinking to Dicken’s, A Christmas Carol, it was a goose which Scrooge turned up with at Bob Cratchit’s house on Christmas Day and my parents used to talk about how they missed having a goose for Christmas lunch as the popularity of the Turkey took over and the price and availability of Turkeys made them more accessible. I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that Turkey became the bird of choice for American settlers due to them being in more plentiful supply than geese and that tradition and abundance eventually filtered through to other parts of the world, including the UK.

Geese have softer pouches of fat than turkeys and this makes them easier and quicker to cook and the self basting from all of that fat which melts at a lower temperature than turkey fat makes the meat more moist and succulent. This succulence makes it easier to eat goose meat without a gravy or sauce which can save you calories, however that fat has soaked into the meat and so the meat itself will undoubtedly be more fatty, so don’t get too excited about calorific savings. I serve any meat from a roast onto a paper napkin or serviette or a piece of kitchen towel and let it absorb a little of the surface fat before putting the meat onto my plate. Every little helps!

BUT, there is good news. It is recommended that we do eat fat, it is an essential part of our diet and while we should reduce our intake while losing weight we should not cut out fat altogether. I haven’t and I’m doing just fine. So if we’re going to eat fat, then goose fat, which is great for making delicious crispy roasted potatoes is healthier than other animal fats in that it is high in monounsaturated fats which are known to lower cholesterol.  Who would have thought it?

Take a look at some of these facts shared from The Goose Fat Information Service Website

  • Fat is an essential part of any balanced diet. It provides the body with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K; which are essential for growth; and contains essential fatty acids which are important in maintaining normal health and body functions.
  • Although animal fats are often considered to be ‘bad fats’, goose fat is one of the better ones and contains far fewer saturated fats than butter or lard. Goose Fat contains 32.7g Saturated Fat per 100g compared with 54g for Butter and 40.8g for Lard.
  • Goose Fat is high in ‘heart healthy’ monounsaturated (55g compared to 19.8g in butter) and polyunsaturated fats (10.8g compared to 2.6g in butter).
  • Goose Fat is also rich in Oleic acid C18.1 (a specific type of monounsaturated fatty acid) which can lower blood cholesterol levels. Goose Fat contains on average 58% oleic acid, C18.1, and is generally higher in comparison to other animal fats. (The Goose Fat Information Website 2014)
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So if you are going to roast some potatoes or parsnips (I prefer to skip potatoes and save my carbs for something else) there are worse things you could roast them in than a little melted, hot goose fat. I parboil my veggies for roasting and then shake them about in a colander while I drain them to fluff up the outside a little and then I put a big spoon of melted fat (warm don’t burn yourself) with a pinch of sea salt and coarse ground black pepper into a big ziplock bag and pop the veggies into it and swing them around a bit to get a light coating of fat onto all sides. Then I pop them onto a really hot baking tray (at Christmas I avoid washing up and use disposable foil baking trays which I can throw in the recycling) and then I stick them in the oven on a high heat for 30 – 40 minutes, shaking and turning half way through.

I find the swinging around in a plastic bag method (I only do it very gently I don’t make like I’m trying out for hammer throwing finals) makes dispersing the fat among the veg much more even but more importantly makes a little go a long way and spares you from overloading the veggies with fat. We know they used to taste better soaked in the stuff but nowadays the thought of that should be making us feel ill and a little in moderation for flavour should appeal far more to the new healthy, healing us.

Again as with everything, think of health and not just calories. Goose fat is arguably better for you than a spray of processed manufactured synthetic cooking oil or spread, so don’t deny yourself great flavours and the health benefits of more natural fats by concentrating only on calories and weight loss. Using this sparingly, as a treat will be better for your health and for your weight loss than loading yourself up with spreads on a daily basis. I find that if I allow myself the good flavours I enjoy what I eat more, I enjoy preparing it more, I savour eating it more rather than bolting it down and I am ultimately more satisfied by my whole dining experience than I would be had I eaten some horrendous processed, synthetic rubbish which some huge corporation told me was better for me.

As with anything if you can afford it, source your meat and fats well, organic, grass fed is best and eat in moderation, make your plate more about vegetables than meat and starch if you are striving to lose weight even if you are having some time out over Christmas like many people do, obese or not, still try to edge those portions towards the ‘good’ side of the scale just a bit. I really believe that you will just naturally do this now anyway without even registering it, but if you do stay mindful you are even more likely to load that plate with good green stuff.

Here’s a fab goose recipe from Chef Nigel Slater on the BBC Food Website with gorgeous chick peas, look for ways that you could cut down on the fat, roast the veg separate like I suggest above, find an alternative to sausages in the stuffing or use a good quality low fat sausage or even a turkey sausage.

Coming soon is H for Holly.


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