This month, Paul Dickson looks ahead to the New Year with some healthy and nutritious menu ideas that can be adapted for different diners. We’re just gearing up for the season of indulgence and we all know that when it’s all over, everybody will be going on their New Year health kick. However, we’ll still be in the depths of winter and when it’s cold and dark outside, a light salad just doesn’t cut it. So how can we strike the balance of creating nutrient-rich, light and healthy options whilst providing the comfort food that keeps us warm? It’s also the time of year when a variety of fresh produce can be scarce or expensive. My ideas below are versatile so that you can swap in frozen vegetables and fruit, as well as changing up the ingredients depending on who you are cooking for.
Switch up the seasons
By the time we get into January and February, it can feel like winter has dragged on for long enough,
whilst spring still feels far away. I like to keep frozen summer berries in the freezer for this time of
year, so that I can create some fresh, healthy and summery flavours which people start to crave once
the indulgence of Christmas is over. A great way to use frozen berries is to create smoothies, which
are such a versatile way to pack in nutrients and vitamins. I use honey to add a natural sweetness and the ingredients can be adapted to suit the audience, for example low fat yoghurt for children and students, or full fat milk for care residents and patients. Another top tip is to add oats for additional fibre and other health benefits.
Chicken tray bake, the wonder of one pot!
When it comes to nutritious comfort food in the winter months, chicken is up there with the most crowd-pleasing and versatile proteins. I wrap chicken breasts in bacon to add flavour and stop them from drying out. Try adding them to a hearty tray bake with seasonal vegetables. I also add pearl barley which is fantastic for bulking out dishes and makes a very comforting and nutritious winter one-pot meal.
Nutrient packed broth
Salmon is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. There are various studies that suggest a range of benefits of eating oily fish to support the ageing process, including helping to improve memory, dampening the effects of inflammation and preventing muscle loss. It is also a very familiar flavour and soft to eat which makes it a good choice for menus in health and care settings. With this in mind, this recipe for salmon broth can be adapted depending on what ingredients you have available and the dietary needs of residents and patients. For example, you can easily use frozen vegetables for a cost-effective solution and add double cream to increase the calories for those who need it.