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Celebrate Christmas with colourful fruit and vegetables

7 December 2015

Celebrate Christmas with colourful fruit and vegetables

Fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables make healthy, colourful centrepieces for the Christmas table, says 5+ A Day.

As families gather to celebrate the festive season, the variety of fruit and vegetables available now makes it easy to create tasty and heart-healthy meals.

Busy schedules at this time of the year means eating healthy food is even more important to help fight fatigue and to boost energy.

Sue Pollard, CEO of the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, says summer’s seasonal produce is full of vitamins and nutrients essential for good health and well-being.

“Colour is key when it comes to eating fresh fruit and vegetables,” she says. “Fill your plate with colours and you will get a great hit of micronutrients and vitamins to help you stay well and healthy. Berries are great to snack on while vegetables like tomatoes, courgettes and asparagus make delicious salads and side dishes.”

Get into the festive spirit with these fresh ideas using seasonal produce.

Asparagus is a good source of folate, which is important for mental well-being. It also contains vitamin C and riboflavin, which helps to regulate metabolism. Look for asparagus with tightly furled, perky tips and straight, strong stalks.
Quick recipe ideas
Steamed, grilled or roasted, asparagus is quick to prepare in a number of different ways. Brush with oil and roast or grill until cooked, but still firm. Serve with Parmesan shavings and a spritz of lemon juice. For a flavoursome brunch, cook prosciutto and asparagus until crispy then bake with eggs, chopped fresh tomato, a sprinkle of cheese and freshly chopped herbs. For a tasty side, simply toss asparagus spears with sliced garlic, olive oil, a little salt and pepper and roast until tender.

Nothing says Christmas like freshly picked sweet, plump cherries. With their ruby red colour, cherries are a good source of vitamin C, which is great for our skin. This stone fruit - a relative of plums, peaches and nectarines - has a short season from December to January.
Quick recipe ideas
Top grilled fish or chicken with a sweet and spicy salsa of cherries, red onion, coriander,jalapeño and lime juice. Soft cheeses like goat cheese or ricotta partner well with fresh cherries. Place the cheese on a platter and top with cherries, sliced toasted almonds and fresh thyme. Drizzle over olive oil and serve with fresh crusty bread.

A popular vegetable of the squash family, courgettes are versatile and easy to use. They contain immune system-boosting vitamin C and potassium, which helps to control blood pressure. Courgettes do not need peeling - simply wash, cut off the ends and cook or use raw.
Quick recipe ideas
Courgettes have a subtle, delicate flavour that makes them great in a salad. For a fresh side salad, use a vegetable peeler to slice courgettes into thin ribbons. Toss with thinly sliced red onion, the zest and juice of a lemon, a large handful of fresh mint, finished with a drizzle of olive oil before serving. Or marinate chunks of courgette and cubed halloumi in olive oil, mixed with the zest and juice of half a lemon, a pinch of chilli flakes and a handful of mint. Thread the courgette and halloumi on to skewers. Cook on the barbecue, or under a grill, for 7-8 minutes, turning halfway through and basting with the remaining marinade.

A member of the rose family, strawberries have an average of 200 seeds per fruit. Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C and contain dietary fibre, which helps to curb hunger pangs. They also contain niacin for healthy skin and potassium, which is good for children’s growth and development.
Quick recipe ideas
Strawberries are delicious simply on their own, or in breakfast recipes, desserts and even salads. For a finger food idea, dip ripe strawberries in thick Greek yoghurt for a sweet snack. Sweet strawberries contrast well with peppery rocket. Drizzle over a light balsamic vinaigrette and top with toasted, chopped pecans for a creative salad. The quintessential Christmas treat has to be chocolate dipped strawberries. Once dipped in chocolate, roll in finely chopped pistachios. These are best made the day you want to serve them.

Tomatoes are native to South America and were originally grown for their decorative purposes. The tomato is actually a fruit but is considered a vegetable because of its uses. They are a good source of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant which prevents free radicals from damaging the body’s cells. They also contain vitamin A, important for vision, as well as potassium, which plays a role in maintaining nerve health.
Quick recipe ideas
For a fresh, juicy salad, in a large bowl whisk lemon juice, olive oil, honey and season. Add sliced tomatoes, one small chilli, rocket and fresh basil. Gently toss with watermelon chunks and feta cheese. Make a red and green Christmas-themed salad by pairing avocado with juicy, red tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to season.

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