Have a happy and healthy Christmas


You can make healthy choices and still enjoy wonderful food over the festive season, as dietitian Ann Gregory explains.

Christmas and the summer holidays are the time for catching up with family/whānau and friends. In all cultures, food is a way of showing hospitality, respect and love for our guests. It can also be a time when all the positive healthy lifestyle changes we have made during the year are put to the test. Here are some ideas for a happy and healthy Christmas.

Plan in advance. The best way to avoid over-indulging this Christmas is to do a bit of clever preparation. Plan the meals for the holiday period, make a shopping list and only buy what you need. Then the leftover nibbles and treats will not be there to tempt you after Christmas.

Do not over cater. Plan the serving sizes. For example you only need 120-160g of meat per person and 90-120g of potato, or other starchy food per person. It will save you money too.

To decrease the temptation to pick at them every time you open the fridge, freeze leftovers straight away.

Have healthy snacks on hand. Have raw vegetable crudités, such as sticks of carrot, celery, pepper, gherkins with flavoured cottage cheese or dips made with low fat yoghurt or low fat sour cream instead of nuts and chippies. Try rice crackers in place of chippies.

Try to limit the number of nibbles you have. They can be calorie dense and very moreish. Do not sit next to the dish of nuts or chippies – pass it on to someone else and reduce the temptation!

Try these ideas for Xmas. Use less bread in stuffing, increase the amount of onions and fruit. Make sure you skim off as much fat as possible when making gravy.

Don’t roast potatoes in lots of fat, roll them in vegetable oil, season and roast. Have one small potato per serving with some plain boiled potato.

Use low fat mayonnaise or salad dressing, or try oil and vinegar dressing with salads. Keep to a tablespoon serving.

When cooking, measure the oil don’t just glug – this helps to manage the kilojoules.

Remember the healthy plate model and have lots of veggies to help fill you up.

Limit sweet treats. Treats you would not normally eat are part of Christmas and we look forward to them but aim for one treat a day, not three! If you overdo it one day don’t give up. Reduce the number of treats you eat the following day.

Don’t ice the Christmas cake – decorate it with nuts and dried fruit instead.

Make filo pastry cases and fill with fruit mince – it makes a delicious lower fat alternative to mince pies.

Use low fat milk to make custard for the trifle or have it with your Christmas pudding. Mix equal amounts of low fat yoghurt with whipped cream and add vanilla essence – it makes a great ‘cream’ with Christmas or any other pudding.

Remember alcohol. It is easy to over indulge in the drinking department at Christmas.

Remember not to drink on an empty stomach (especially if you are on insulin). Alcohol will also stimulate your appetite making you eat more calories. Try limiting yourself to a glass of wine with your meal or make a spritzer (white wine topped up with soda water) for a pre-dinner drink. Use sugar-free mixers with spirits. Better still have soda water with a splash of lime as a refreshing pre-meal drink.

**This article first appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Diabetes Wellness magazine. Subscribe to Diabetes NZ today to receive your copy.

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Jo Chapman