For those of us who want a healthy, festive Christmas without having to think or plan it.
If your goal is a healthy Christmas (particularly one you don’t have to plan too much yourself), this one’s for you.
We’ve all felt the breathless struggle of food-induced exhaustion – you know that sluggish brand of lethargy – and let’s be honest… it’s not exactly a feeling we’re looking to repeat.
This year, don’t undo all the hard work you’ve already put in – just because “it’s Christmas.” Stick to the health plan you’re on and have a satisfying, satiating and totally delicious day.
Accredited practicing dietitian and Dietitian’s Association of Australia spokesperson, Simone Austin, tells us how to enjoy balanced meal – and even exercise – on Christmas day.
Yes, you can have it all.
If you usually skip this meal altogether you’re setting yourself up to overeat later on. Fact. Instead, Austin suggests getting in some protein in the morning.
“Don’t starve yourself because if you do you’re going to start eating all the nibbles before you even get to lunchtime. I might go for some fresh berries and a bit of yoghurt,” she says.
But – sadly – this is not the go ahead to make your French toast, and eat it, too.
“I wouldn’t go too hard at breakfast,” says Austin. “Obviously you’ve got to pace yourself.”
Her top options?
- Yoghurt and berries
- Bircher muesli and fruit
- Poached fruit
- Wholegrain toast and egg or tomato and basil
Now, here comes trouble.
In many households getting Christmas lunch right is an art that knows no bounds – calorie-wise, that is.
The good thing is, you really don’t have to change your Christmas lunch menu all too much. You can still get into the festive spirit, without falling off the bandwagon.
- Go for quality
“I think, try and remember to go for quality and not necessarily quantity,” says Austin. “If you’ve got turkey, pork and also chicken, you don’t have to eat all of them. Think about which you would like best and enjoy that.”
Austin also recommends getting some seafood, especially if you’re having your Christmas in the southern hemisphere.
- Creative salads and veggie sides
While you might be keen to put on some creamy potato bake or pasta sides, Austin suggests getting creative with salads and veggies instead.
“It’s not the last time you’ll ever have a crispy roast potato, so have some but don’t have so much of it that you don’t enjoy it,” she says.
Austin also recommends choosing some more exotic healthy sides that you might not bother with normally so that your healthy food is fun. “If you put effort into your salad it doesn’t have to be boring.” Simply adding some macadamia nuts or roasted pumpkin seeds can really change up your green and leafy.
- Change how you think of the meal
“Don’t plan your meals around the meat. Plan them around your salads and veggies because people will love those,” says Austin.
For example, you could go for a rocket, strawberry, pomegranate and sprinkled feta salad with a side of lean roast pork and homemade apple sauce. This way the majority of your meal is fresh salad goodness, with just a small portion of meat for that Christmas spirit.
- Have dessert if you want to
Don’t feel like you have to eat Aunty Mary’s Christmas cheesecake if you don’t like cheesecake. You might not want any dessert, or maybe just some grapes, cherries and cheeses.
“I just think the volume is bad. If you want Christmas pudding you can still enjoy a slither instead of a big hunk of it – because then you don’t enjoy it you just feel too heavy. Also choose which dessert you would like to have and have that – it doesn’t mean you have to eat all of the desserts,” says Austin.
- Choose the type of meat you like best
- Roast vegies in olive oil: pumpkin, mushrooms, marinated zucchini
- Make your vegies interesting: green beans with caramelised onion, Brussel sprouts and roasted pine nuts
- Exotic salad: add nuts, fruits or roasted veggies to make them more hearty and fun
- A slither of Pavlova with a big helping of fruit for dessert
Although you’re only a little hungry at this stage, the fettucine pasta is in the fridge calling you. Hey, we’ve all been there.
Again, Austin recommends going in salad first before moving to the meat or heavy sides.
“You might have a couple of salads that you put out at lunch time that you can eat again at dinner. It might be a nice big rocket, cherry tomato and mango salad and then you might just break up some of the meat to go on top of that,” she suggests.
Stay away from soft drinks and juices, warns Austin. “Have mineral water, sparkling water or soda water instead continuously out there. Some lime, lemon, even just sitting a strawberry on the side of the glass can be nice.”
And for those over 18, how much should you be drinking?
“Alcohol is alcohol, the alcohol is the issue. Whatever you drink less of if going to be best,” says Austin.
Her top tips?
- Drink water before any alcoholic beverage to rid yourself of thirst
- Pick days where you are going to have a drink and designate days where you won’t
- Don’t let people top up your glass because that will make it hard for you to count your drinks
“I think it’s a good idea to sit down and eat your meal but I would set it up to have one plate, rather than going back and forth,” says Austin. “Serve up and eat that, then clear it all away rather than everyone sitting and picking continuously.”
It’s one of those things where if it’s in front of you you’ll probably eat it, but if it’s cleared away you can stop eating and focus on those around you.
Austin also suggests getting in some gentle family exercise such as backyard cricket or bocce so that the day isn’t entirely sedentary.
“Christmas day is one day and that’s okay,” says Austin. “But if your Christmas starts at the beginning of December and doesn’t finish until halfway through January, that’s more of the issue.”
December 12, 20162:58pm