Conquering a Healthy Christmas Day
In Australia, Christmas day is synonymous with food as most Aussies revel in the chance to kick back, spend time with family and forget about the year’s worries.
The trouble is, not only are Christmas foods delicious, they’re often laden with calories, particularly once the sauces and dressings are added – not to mention the dessert!
“People with diabetes may experience unusual highs and lows with their blood sugar levels from a combination of too much food, different foods and alcohol consumption which can sometimes take days to recover from, especially for those on insulin,” says Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist Kate Save.
Still, it’s difficult to avoid, especially when there are parties aplenty.
“Aussies love to celebrate the end of the year with drinks, parties and special meals out, or special Christmas treats at the workplace,” says Kate.
“The temptation of lollies, chocolates, cakes and biscuits can be difficult to resist when offered to you every day. People then often fall into the trap of trying to completely avoid these foods, often followed by giving up on the resistance and having them all.
“Moderation is absolutely the key in this instance,” she says.
And the good news it, it can be done, especially in Australia where meat, seafood and salad are most commonly on the menu at Christmas time.
Mastering the healthy festive menu
According to Save: “Typical Christmas day menus often include lots of protein, vegetables and salads – which are certainly healthy – but they can easily be made less healthy when condiments are added like rich gravy, cheesy or creamy sauces and heavy handed salad dressings with lots of oils.
“Good Christmas day choices include salads (light on dressing), lean cuts of meat or skinless chicken and turkey.
“Also try to avoid too many carb-rich foods such as breads, cakes, lollies, chocolates, chips and crackers – and stick to a small portion of plum pudding and custard,” she adds.
If you do slip up, Kate suggests using the theory of ‘compensation’ to make up for indulgences.
“Recognise if you’ve eaten too much or enjoyed the wrong foods and compensate with additional exercise and a more restricted intake at other times of the day. Then ensure you get back to your usual healthy routines soon after the parties are over.”
Kate also suggests keeping some healthy snacks on hand in order to avoid getting too hungry – and giving into the festive temptations.
“Your favourite yoghurt, fresh fruit, nuts, fresh avocado and some corn thins or rice crackers are all great ideas, as are the regular go-to recommendations of hummus or tzatziki dips with veggie sticks and homemade protein balls,” she says.
Being creative with leftovers
Just as Christmas day is synonymous with food, the day after brings the inevitable plethora of leftovers. No matter how hard you try to plan and economise, there’s always plenty of yummy food left over after the big day.
The good news however, is there are a number of really simple ways to make the most of what’s left, without risking your health.
“The days – and sometimes weeks – after Christmas is the perfect time to get creative with leftovers and to explore new and healthy combinations of food or family dishes,” says Kate.
“The easiest solution is to simply team up leftover meat with fresh salad. If you want to create something new, then turn the roast vegetables into bubble and squeak, or combine with tuna or salmon to create tasty, yet healthy patties and serve with salad,” she adds.
Want some more inspiration for Boxing Day and beyond? Here are some other great ideas to use up Christmas goodies, without the guilt.
Bubble and squeak:
In a non-stick pan, fry up roast vegetables combined with low carb veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower and zucchini and use a sweet potato base instead of white potatoes.
Combine leftover vegetables with tuna or salmon to make seafood patties to cook on the barbeque or bake in the oven. Pair with leftover salads for an added nutrient boost.
Create delicious omelettes with loads of fresh mushrooms, baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. A breakfast staple, this also doubles as a great, light dinner option in the summer time which is loaded with nutrients for every part of your body.
For a fresh, summer special, simply whip up a yummy chicken, mango and walnut salad. Pairing leftovers with in season fruits is a great way to add some zest to the menu and create an entirely new dish which is great for lunch or dinner.
Cook up a basic stir-fry with excess vegetables. Simply combine the different meats with of the stir fried veggies to create separate dishes that will appeal to the various taste and meat preferences in the family.
Shred the meat and add to lettuce cups with other leftover salads and enjoy ‘hamburger-style’ – no bread. You’ll get the goodness of the meat and veggies without the unnecessary calories often found in many breads.
Remember, working your way through the Christmas day leftovers doesn’t need to be laborious or monotonous, nor does it need to impact your health. All you need to do is handpick the clean and nutritious foods (such as lean meats and vegetables) and seek a bit of inspiration as to how to whip up some new and tasty creations.
So don’t get stuck in a rut of ham sandwiches until the New Year, get creative, mix and match ingredients and enjoy the feeling of being resourceful, while fuelling yourself and your family with ample nutrients.