The interesting thing about bones is that you don’t have to miss out on the enjoyment of Christmas to keep yourself on a healthy track through the festive season. Bones can be resilient – but taking cognisance of your diet is important. And Christmas is no different. But because it’s a time that calls for a fair amount of excess and abandon, it’s a good idea to consider how you can have a good time AND keep the health of your bones in mind.

Today there is an array of food to choose from with good calcium levels – enough to please even the most delicate of bones. This year you really can let go of your worries and prepare an incredible, bone-friendly feast! Apart from the turkey itself, there are some great ideas to ensure your Christmas remains nutritious, rich in flavour, and brimming with good health.

The story of the sauce, the stuffing, the gravy, and the salad.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

  • Add 2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed) to a medium bowl.
  • Stir in 1/2 cup of sugar (this is about two-thirds the sugar in traditional cranberry sauce).
  • Add the freshly-squeezed juice of one orange, one tablespoon of grated orange zest (peel), and one teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • Transfer your mixture to a pot and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves — about 10 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking until the cranberries start to break down — about another 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring for about 5 minutes. Taste your sauce and add extra salt, pepper, cinnamon, or orange zest, if you like.

The bone-health bonus: Your homemade cranberry sauce will have less sugar, no preservatives, and an extra 40 mg of calcium and 85 mg of Vitamin C from the orange! You probably know that fresh cranberries are rich in Vitamin C, but they’re also plentiful in bone-building calcium, magnesium, manganese, Vitamin K, and iron. The vital phyto-nutrients are in the cranberries skin and flesh (not the juice) — these phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and flavonoids fight inflammation that can increase bone degeneration.

Savoury Stuffing

The trick here is to use cooked quinoa in place of bread. Quinoa provides a generous amount of protein – all nine essential amino acids your body can’t make by itself, plus flavonoid antioxidants (quercetin and kaempferol) which are potent anti-inflammatories that protect bone and tissue health. And in addition, quinoa has more oleic acid, omega-3s, and ALA fats than other grains.

Quinoa works well with traditional stuffing ingredients such as chopped celery, onion, mushrooms, apple, dried cranberries, poultry seasoning, chicken broth, walnuts, garlic, and pinches of cinnamon and ground allspice. So you can have your stuffing any which way you like, and still be in good health!

‘Good to the Bones’ Gravy

Gravies are traditionally made with fat drippings from the cooking pan. But by using chicken stock, you can cut the amount of drippings in half without sacrificing the flavour.

  • Sauté the stock and drippings with whole-grain flour instead of white flour or corn-starch to thicken the gravy. Crushed flax seeds also thicken gravy well.
  • Add dried spices and herbs instead of heavily salting. Powdered garlic, chives, parsley, rosemary, and freshly ground pepper are all great options!

Mediterranean Salad with Pomegranate and Fava Beans

Salad made with a mix of green and red veggies is the perfect way to add a dash of festive colour to your dinner spread. It’s super-easy to make and it’s loaded with bone-healthy nutrients.
Yields: 1 serving. Prep time: 4 minutes. Cook time: 6 minutes. Total time: 10 minutes.
Ingredients: (for the topping)
3 ounces firm tofu with calcium sulphate (it will note ‘made with calcium-sulphate’ on the label)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shakes of table salt
4 tablespoons fava beans
For the dressing:
1/2 cup low-fat berry-flavoured yogurt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
For the salad: 3 cups mixed baby greens or arugula; 2 pomegranates.

  • Cut tofu into squares. Heat a skillet over low to medium heat with the olive oil. Add the tofu and salt and brown for 4 to 5 minutes, then add the fava beans and cook for another minute. Set aside.
  • Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  • Fill a bowl with the greens. Cut off the crown on the pomegranates, slice into sections and roll out the juice sacs with your fingers. Toss into the salad. Add the tofu and fava beans.
  • Mix the salad with the dressing.

Make your salad with any of the following high-calcium greens: collard leaves; kale; spinach; watercress; arugula. Add Vitamin C-rich red bell pepper and orange slices. These give the salad a little extra texture too. Before serving, top your salad with a simple, delicious dressing: in a bowl, combine: ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil; ¼ cup apple cider vinegar; 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice; salt and pepper to taste.

NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)

NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.

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