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 Our Christmas cooking and eating habits revealed

Lifestyle | Article

Eating, drinking and being merry - that's the usual plan at Christmas.

But ever wondered exactly what food folks in our area will be dishing up most of and what festive fare doesn't quite tempt their tastebuds?

New consumer research from the Food Standards Agency reveals some fascinating insights into the East England's Christmas cooking and eating habits.

They're also serving up some healthy top tips and advice to ensure that this year, Christmas is all wrapped up. .


1. 5-A-Day Veg Targets...Easy Peasy!
Christmas is a great time to hit those five a day fruit and veg targets but just what veg comes in as cream of the crop? A survey by the FSA revealed that broccoli came out tops with 17% of adults surveyed, picking it as their favourite vegetable with potatoes coming in second with 10% and the flame coloured carrot receiving 8% of the votes.

Not flavour of the seasonal month is the Brussels sprout, which was chosen as the least favourite vegetable by 21% of adults surveyed in East England. Furthermore, 15% also said that they only ate Brussels sprouts at Christmas! But don't be so quick to pass the plate on the humble sprout as it's a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Don't just stick to your favourite vegetables this Christmas as remember ALL vegetables are good sources of important vitamins and minerals, with many of them being high in vitamin C, B vitamins such as folate, carotenes (which are turned into vitamin A in the body), potassium and magnesium. Eating a variety of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day helps keep us healthy and may help protect us from heart disease and some cancers.

And there's more good news, as veggies are low in fat and are a good source of fibre (which helps make meals more filling), by eating lots of them, you'll feel fuller for longer. Remember when cooking veggies, steam them to preserve more vitamins.

2. Food Glorious Food.....But What About Leftovers?
Seems like people in East England love their food as a massive 79% of people surveyed said that one of their favourite aspects of Christmas was tucking into the traditional turkey and trimmings and a further 11% said that knowing they could eat lots of food was their favourite part of Christmas.

With 46% of people in East England surveyed saying that they have experienced cooking too much food for the Christmas meal, what is the best way to deal with those luscious leftovers? The Food Standard's Agency's storage tips will help ensure you enjoy safe Christmas eating this year.

- Always place cooked meat and poultry in the fridge to avoid any potential food poisoning bacteria growing and multiplying!

- If you're cooking turkey or a joint of meat for Christmas lunch and there are leftovers, remove all the meat from the bone, put in a covered container, leave to cool (for no more than two hours), store in the fridge and use within 48 hours. Alternatively, you could freeze the left-over meat

- If you are using leftover meat to make a pie or a curry, only reheat the meat once and ensure that the dish is piping hot all the way through

- Prepared salads and leftover vegetables should also be stored in the fridge, do not leave them standing around at room temperature and keep them away from any raw foods to prevent potential cross contamination. However it's fine to leave whole lettuces, tomatoes etc at room temperature as problems only arise once the salad ingredients are chopped up and mixed together

Running Around Like a Headless Turkey?!...
For many, particularly those who don't cook often, Christmas can be a real challenge. With so many things to think about in the run up to the big day, it's no wonder that it's not just the vegetables that get steamed up!

Agency research showed that 17% of those surveyed in East England who cook the Christmas meal said that they only started planning what they were going to cook for Christmas dinner a few days beforehand and surprisingly a further 30% said they either plan it on the day or don't plan it at all! 39% of those polled stated that doing the Christmas grocery shopping was their least favourite part of preparing the Christmas meal.

Cooking the traditional turkey can be a real labour of love and as the turkey usually sets the timings for cooking all the accompanying dishes, it's important to get it right! Agency findings revealed that 36% said that the stress involved with cooking and planning the Christmas meal including getting the timings exactly right for the food was what they least enjoyed about cooking Christmas dinner.

Furthermore 57% of those surveyed in East England who cook the Christmas meal, said they will spend between 2 and 4 hours preparing and cooking Christmas dinner, and a further 21% said they will spend more than 5 hours!

We all know someone who has spent hours slaving away in the kitchen only to end up with an undercooked, overcooked or burnt bird - this year don't make the same mistakes as help is at hand - log on to for the FSA's guide to defrosting and cooking the perfect turkey.

3. Festive Feasting the Healthy Way
Lay off the Salt
Agency research revealed that 28% surveyed who cook the Christmas meal said they will be cooking Christmas dinner taking into consideration various conditions such as allergies, food intolerances, diabetes and high blood pressure.

With high blood pressure contributing to more than 170,000 deaths in England alone every year1, one of the key things to watch out for is your salt intake. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and high blood pressure triples the risk of heart disease and stroke. So keep an eye on the amount of salt you're consuming and keep your heart healthy not just at Christmas but all year round! For tips and advice on how to cut down on salt in your daily diet visit the Agency's website:

4. A Global Flavour to Christmas
It would seem that East Englanders love the idea of a global Christmas cuisine as 60% of people surveyed who cook the Christmas meal, say that they would consider cooking a non British menu for their Christmas dinner.... the top cuisine of choice was Chinese with 36% of the votes, beating Italian (28%) and Indian (12%) into second and third place respectively.

For an alternative Christmas there are lots of healthy recipe options - fire up the wok for a Chinese turkey stir fry or turn up the heat in the kitchen and make a home-made Indian turkey curry packed with veggies.

Remember some ingredients such as soy sauce and ready made sauces can be high in salt so chooses low or reduced salt options and instead enhance the flavour by adding ginger, garlic, chilli, or fresh herbs.

5. Bring on the Festive Veggies!
Vegetarians will also be enjoying a bountiful feast this Christmas with 21% of people in East England saying that they will be cooking a vegetarian option as part of their festive feast this year. 53% of these votes will be cooking up a nut roast for the vegetarians around the table, while 21% will opt for a vegetable based dish.

If you're vegetarian ensuring that you get enough protein or iron is important. So when sitting down to the Christmas meal, include protein rich foods such as pulses, nuts and seeds, eggs, soya products, milk and dairy products, as well as green vegetables, such as cabbage and broccoli.

For lots more Christmas tips and advice and other health and nutrition matters visit the FSA's websites:

December 2006




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