A fresh take on food this festive season

With Christmas trees and Santa hats lining the stores, we’ve got to start mentally preparing for the jolly season ahead.

The Christmas parties and festive events are just around the corner, where an abundance of delicious (and not always the healthiest) food options will be at our fingertips. There are, however, simple ways to enjoy and embrace the Christmas cheer while still being mindful of what we eat!

That’s not to say that we can’t partake in the Christmas festivities… after all, we’ve been pretty good this year! We just need to act mindfully, both for our mental and physical health. Today we’ll cover three big points when it comes to food considerations around Chrissy time!

1. Managing food intake

So there’s an expectation around Christmas that we go a little bit… ham with our portion sizes, whether it’s six slices of turkey, seven flutes of champagne, or eight ‘miniature’ dessert servings (because who can say no to Grandma’s homemade Christmas pudding? No one, that’s who).

Therefore, it’s important to remember that Christmas is one day of the year – one out of 365 – one special occasion, to overindulge with family and friends and potentially face the consequences of a hangover the next day.

However, what we don’t want to happen is an overindulgence of overindulging. This can be a little bit tricky with the 36 Christmas parties all crammed within one tiny month. To combat this, we need to use our internal willpower and listen to that little angel on our left shoulder. This will involve:

  • Saying YES to one plate of food
  • Saying YES to one or two standard drinks, subject to alcohol tolerance (someone’s got to drive, right? Let that someone be you)
  • Saying YES to a small serve of Christmas pudding (again, someone’s Grandma has put some serious effort into preparing this bad boy).

It’s also important to think about what you’ve eaten during the day, before the party. Did you have a big lunch? Did you eat snacks? Have you exercised? All of these questions can influence your food intake, which will be different for every single person.

2. Planning meals

Okay, it’s good to keep things simple, especially with the hectic nature of the silly season. When planning your plate, I want you to consider four things.

  1. Veggies. Are there three or more different coloured vegetables on your plate? Is 50% of your plate covered by vegetables?
  2. Protein. We want a quarter of the plate to be a protein. You can mix and match this though. For instance, two slices of ham and two slices of turkey, or half a fillet of fish and two slices of grilled chicken.
  3. Carbohydrate. The rest of your plate (a quarter) will be covered with a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates include potato, pasta bake, bread, pasta salads and rice. Try not to overdo it here, as you’ll likely be having dessert and/or drinking alcohol.
  4. Alcohol. If it is Christmas day and you’re not driving, drink responsibly. If it’s not Christmas day, try to limit the number of drinks to two, within an appropriate timeframe.

3. Considering healthier food options for Christmas events

This is all well and good, but what if you’re wanting to know the healthy food options at Christmas events?

  • It’s pretty safe to assume that the plain meats will be a healthy option. Just remember to cut off or remove the skin, as they contain saturated fat which isn’t optimal for the heart.
  • Opt for those leafy green salads, which are full of fibre and generally a source of a low-GI carbohydrate (also known as a wholegrain carbohydrate). I’m sure there’s a health-nut at the party that’ll whip up a dietitian’s dream – if there’s not, maybe that could be you!
  • For dessert, opt for the fruit salad or berries! That’s generally a staple at many Aussie Christmas events and they’re a safe bet if you’re wanting something super healthy!

Alas, it’s important to remember that Christmas is a once-a-year event. Therefore, try not to get too stressed out if you eat slightly more than normal over the Christmas season. For the most part, act mindfully, eat appropriate portions and thank your Grandma for the yummy Christmas pudding! Both she and your body are going to thank you.

Annabel Johnston works at Acacia Well-Being and manages her own private practice, Nutrition for Living. She has completed a Bachelor of Applied Science, Master of Dietetic Practice and Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Studies.

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