Stuffing is a popular side dish at the Christmas table, and it can even rival the festive bird in terms of taste and texture for some. But how healthy is stuffing? And how can you make it as nutritious as possible without sacrificing its palatability?
We challenged three professional chefs (Bradley, Reece and Renaldo) from the Good Eating Company to show us the healthy way to do it. We then asked nutritionist Rose Constantine Smith to analyse their efforts.
Rose says that although you might see the festive season as an excuse for a meat feast, choosing a vegetarian stuffing will be better for your health. Don't be put off by a bread-based recipe, she advises.
“The vegetarian version of stuffing is generally made predominantly from bread, making it a source of fibre (especially if you use a wholegrain or wholewheat version) and often low in fat. Stuffing becomes less healthy with the introduction of meats such as pork, as that increases the salt and fat content.”
Bradley's sage and onion light stuffing
Bradley Sinkins is head chef at Engine.
1.5 large onions
1 small handful of fresh sage
2 gluten-free rolls
1 small egg
10g Flora Light spread
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 200°C / Gas 6
- Finely chop the onion, put on a microwave-safe plate and cover with clingfilm. Microwave for 6 minutes at 2-minute intervals.
- Once soft, use a blender to mix to a paste.
- Using the blender, blitz the rolls into breadcrumbs.
- Then, in a bowl, mix to combine the onion, sage and seasoning.
- Beat one small egg and add to mixture along with the Flora. Stir until it is well-mixed and is a thick paste.
- Press into a shallow non-stick dish to around 1 inch thick and put on the top shelf for 20 minutes or until golden.
Reece's fibre-filled walut and cranberry stuffing
Reece Taylor is head chef at Arup.
He says: “I’m using flaxseed instead of white bread as it will add extra fibre and give the dish greater nutritional value.”
60g flaxseed bread (dried and blended coarsely)
160g walnuts (chopped)
80g dried cranberries
1/4 brown onion (diced finely)
1/4 tsp rapeseed oil
100g minced lardons
100g minced pork back fat
200g minced lean pork
1/2 bunch sage (finely chopped)
1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
2g cracked black peppercorns
Over a medium heat, in a pan heat the rapeseed oil.
- Add the onions and cook gently until golden. Leave to one side and once cool, mix with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl until evenly distributed.
- On a clean side prepare a 60cm sheet of food-safe clingfilm. Place the mixture along the shorter edge of the clingfilm leaving an inch gap at the end. Using the inch gap lift the cling film and roll over the mixture keeping it tight and roll to create a sausage shape. secure each end by tieing in a small knot.
- Bring a pan of water to a simmer and place the watertight roll of stuffing into the water. Poach in the simmering water for approximately 1 hour. Cool in the fridge.
- When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 160°C.
- Place a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a tsp of rapeseed oil. Remove the clingfilm from the stuffing roll, place in the pan and fry turning frequently so that is golden all over.
- Place the stuffing roll onto a sheet of foil and wrap. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
Renaldo's quinoa, apricot and hazelnut stuffing
Renaldo Wright is head chef at Henry Wood House.
He says: “I’ve made my stuffing using wholemeal bread instead of white. I am going to be adding quinoa, apricots and hazelnuts which all contain their own health benefits. Apricots are high in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C and fibre. I have chosen hazelnuts because of their vitamin E which is good for skin, hair and nails. Also quinoa as it's high in protein, fibre, magnesium and riboflavin.”
175g wholemeal bread
100g cooked quinoa
40g chopped apricot
40g chopped hazelnuts
20g olive oil
3g sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180°C fan
- Cook your quinoa in unsalted boiling water until cooked.
- Blend your bread and nuts in a mixer separately then roughly chop your apricots and parsley by hand.
- Dice your onion and sweat down in a pan until your they turn clear.
- In a large bowl add all your ingredients together with your egg and mix by hand until all your ingredients have combined. If your stuffing is a little dry add a small amount of water.
- Now place into an oven-proof dish and bake for 12 mins, or until the top is slightly crusty and it is hot through.
The nutritionist’s view
“Bradley's stuffing is the lowest in calories and fat, but it is misses an opportunity to add nutritional value with only three nutrients present at a significant amount.”
“As Reece’s recipe contains three sources of pork, two of which are fatty, although tasty, it is sadly high in fat with 100g containing 33g of fat, 6.7g being saturated. The addition of nuts, flaxseed bread and dried fruits does increase the nutritional value, particularly for Vitamins B1, 3 and 6.”
“Renaldo’s stuffing is 173 kcal more per 100g than Bradley’s and also higher in fat by 7g per 100g, but the majority come from unsaturated sources, olive oil. What's more, it contains 13 nutrients such as folic acid, iron and selenium at a significant value. It is also high in fibre due to the addition of wholemeal bread and quinoa to the recipe.”
The take home message
“If I was to approach this I would look to stick to a vegetarian option as there is a lot of other meats within a Christmas meal, I would reduce the bread content and make up with a vegetable or fruit such as grated apple to increase the fibre content and to count towards your five a day. I would also pack it with flavour by using plenty of herbs such as sage, thyme or rosemary.”