Christmas is coming – are you excited? The tinsel, the tree, the Michael Buble songs, for many of us, it’s our favourite time of the year. We might be in Brisbane, but have you been dreaming of a white Christmas? (The slice that is!) Or maybe you can’t wait until someone brings you a figgy pudding? Even if you’ve been eating healthy, it’s the time of the year when we have every excuse to indulge in all our favourite Christmas foods. So how do you do that and not undo all the hard work you’ve put in to change your diet and lifestyle? We’re sharing with you our 7 best healthy eating tips for Christmas time. We hope you find them helpful as we head into the season.
Read the full article below, and check out the video below. Desi, Eleni G and Eleni Z share our best advice for staying healthy through the season.
7 healthy eating tips for Christmas
from our dietitians
1. Don’t deny yourself on Christmas day
Firstly, we’re writing you a permission slip to enjoy your day. Within reason, most of us can afford to indulge in those treats we love on Christmas day (and maybe Boxing Day, if there are leftovers!). Of course, if you are diabetic or have another condition, it’s still important to keep sugars or other allergies and intolerances in check. However, if your healthy eating regime is mostly about losing weight or being healthy generally, don’t stare longingly at the glazed ham and roast potatoes while you pick at your salad. Have what you want, but reserve it just for Christmas Day. What happens with many of us, is that we start indulging early with end-of-year drinks and work parties. Then there’s all the post-Christmas catch-ups, New Year, and holidays. One day won’t undo any harm, but a series of days in a row can quickly break good habits. So enjoy every mouthful of whatever you fancy at Christmas, but try and get back on track as soon as you can.
2. Fortune favours the fresh
While we don’t need to deny ourselves treats on the day, it’s a great idea to focus more on healthy, fresh foods, with smaller amounts of denser, sugary or fatty foods. Especially for other events through the festive season. For many, seafood is on the menu at this time of year, and this is a great healthy choice. As are fresh dips with vegetables. Of course, Australian Christmas tables usually display an abundance of fresh salads right through the season. These are wonderful choices to include more of on your plate. One word of advice is to be mindful of dressings where you can. Stick to the basics such as good quality extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard. If you like a creamy dressing, play with Greek yoghurt instead, or avocado as a green goddess dressing. Adding herbs and spices will reduce the need for salt. If you can, serve salad dressing on the side, which will allow everyone to serve their own quantities.
3. Perfect portions
Christmas get-togethers are usually a buffet-style affair, and this is great as it allows you to choose. The trouble is, there’s always so much there, right? How do we not go overboard? The best tactic is to go for those foods you want most, but be conscious of portion sizes. When it comes to indulging, we say everything in moderation. In many cases over the festive season, we don’t have control over the type of food that is put in front of us. What we can control, is how much we eat.
Our advice is to start small and build. Start with a smaller portion, take a break, and think about if you’re full and content. If you’re genuinely still hungry, by all means, go and get a little bit more food. But by going the opposite way and starting with a really heavy plate, we are often feeling obliged to finish it. Also, not turning up starving will help you minimise portions. So having something to eat before you go along to an event would be an excellent tactic.
4. Watch your drinks
Many people focus solely on food and forget to consider alcohol through the festive season. It’s great to be mindful of what you’re drinking and try to slow down your alcohol consumption. The first tip if you’d like to control your alcohol intake, is not to let people top up your drinks for you. Always finish the drink and then go and get another one. That way, you know how many drinks you’ve had. When we’re looking at healthy volumes, try and keep to your two to four maximum drinks, if you can. What is also worth thinking about, is that one glass of wine is actually the same as having two gin or vodka and sodas, or two low-alcohol beers. So, you can pick your drink, just enjoy it, but be in control. It is always a great idea to alternate your drinks with something non-alcoholic. Try a cool glass of water on ice, or mineral water with some lemon or lime in it is also lovely. One other tip – socialise away from the hors d’oeuvres table, which can get more and more tempting after a few drinks. Better to choose wisely and take your drink and food away on a plate or serviette.
More fruit at dessert time
In Queensland, we are so privileged to have amazing fresh fruit, so show it off and enjoy it at Christmas time. Ripe Queensland mangoes, peaches, lychees, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, gorgeous watermelon. The list is endless! These luscious fruit options are a great choice if we’re onto dessert, giving us that something sweet without sending us into a sugar coma. If you’re attending an event, you can even offer to bring a fruit platter so that you know there are some healthy options there for you.
When it comes to dessert, a small plate is going to help you manage your portion sizes better. Start with your seasonal fruit. Add the odd sweet treat if you choose to, but minimise the amount. Where you can, choose fruity sorbets over ice cream, or a small serve of pavlova or meringue with fruit salad, rather than heavier, creamier puddings and trifles. But everything in moderation. If you want it, just choose a small portion. For instance, have half a slice of cake, a quarter of a piece of slice, one rum ball. That way, you still get to enjoy all the lovely flavours of Christmas without going overboard.
6. Dining out doesn’t have to be healthy diet out
Getting together with friends over the season is almost inevitable, and most times, it involves food. Here are some quick tips for healthier choices at restaurants and social functions:
- Be mindful of creamy sauces and dressings, gravies and butter. Where it’s possible, reduce or eliminate these extras.
- Swap chips or wedges for steamed vegetables or salad
- Swap high-sugar sodas or juices for mineral water or still water
- Tomato or vegetable-based sauces will be healthier than creamy alternatives
- A salad is a great choice on the menu – ask for the dressing on the side
- Look for unprocessed grilled, poached or steamed meats that are skin-free
- Seafood is a healthy and filling option and like your salad, ask for your sauce on the side
- Avoid deep-fried foods and chocolates
- Instead of ordering a full dessert, consider sharing one
7. Stay active through the season
While you’re enjoying your well-needed rest and relaxation, don’t forget to include activity in the mix. It’s easy to get out of routine, and if you’re away on holiday, you may not be able to hit the gym. I recommend starting your day with a walk, wherever you are. If you find yourself at the beach, it’s so lovely to walk along the shoreline each morning. Or if you’re in another city, why not explore it? It’s tempting to spend your days thinking about the next meal, but sightseeing is always a great way to burn calories. Plus, you get to learn about and enjoy where you are, taking home some gorgeous memories with you. If you’re staying home, it’s easier to be disciplined in theory, but we often find ourselves surfing socials or bingeing Netflix instead. By planning for and building your exercise routine into your day, you stay on track. Also…a staycation might be a good excuse to go sightseeing in our own city. Or why not hit up some of our bushwalking tracks, or start a new active hobby?
A Mediterranean Christmas
Being of Mediterranean origin, Christmas is a big time of the year where we spend time with our family and extended family. We love to catch up, and our catch-ups are based around food. With Christmas, we usually start off the day with oysters and prawns, and fresh seafood. After this course, we would go into souvla, which is basically lamb on the spit, with a multitude of Greek variations of salads. For dessert, we often have beautiful Queensland fresh fruit. We love mango and watermelon. It doesn’t really get much better than that! So as you ease into the festive season, we want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. And a very blessed and healthy New Year. Enjoy this time with your family, friends, and loved ones.
A unique and healthy gift idea this Christmas
Why not grab one of our Mediterranean lifestyle and cookbooks as a gift this Christmas? Or gift it to yourself for some great recipes for Christmas day and beyond!
The content in this article is not intended as medical advice. It is also of a general nature and is not tailored to your individual circumstances. A 1:1 consultation is always the best approach for tailored and individualised support to reach your health goals. Please contact our clinic to discuss your unique situation.