How to Have a Healthy, Happy Christmas Day
Christmas is known as the season of excess, but it doesn’t have to be. If you or your loved ones are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, here are a few simple steps you can take to make Christmas Day a happy, healthy occasion for the whole family.
Tip 1: Mix up your festive traditions
Who says you need to prepare a carb-heavy roast every year? Don’t be afraid to start your own Christmas traditions that align to your new, healthier lifestyle.
Let’s face it, the stress of having to create an elaborate three course meal can add unnecessary strain to what should be an enjoyable time of year – so why not host a Christmas brunch rather than lunch? There is a myriad of deliciously healthy mueslis, smoothies and quiches you can create – not to mention it frees up the afternoon for outdoor activities!
If you do choose to entertain over lunch, opt for more informal, lighter and easy to prepare meals. The heat of the Australian summer lends itself to fresh seafood platters, BBQ prawns, festive salads and fresh, fruity desserts, so let your imagination run wild. Just remember to exercise portion control – the temptation at Christmas is to pile your plate high, but just because it’s healthier doesn’t mean you can eat double the amount!
Tip 2: Make a list and check it twice
Healthier doesn’t have to mean working harder in the kitchen. Regardless of what menu you create, identify whether you can prep, cook and even freeze some of the dishes in advance so you don’t need to spend the bulk of Christmas Day cooking up a storm.
If you opt to prep and refrigerate prior to the big day, don’t prepare food more than four days in advance to avoid any spoilage or food safety issues and prevent altering the nutritional content.
Top Food Prep Tips:
1. Freeze it:
Foods can sometimes become mushy when they are frozen, as ice crystals form causing the cell walls to burst and release fluid. However, there are some great snacks that are minimally affected by the freezing process and are therefore perfect to prep and freeze in advance. Keep these menu items in mind for your next festive gathering:
- Dips: Hummus, vegetable based dips and pesto can be easily prepared a week or more in advance. Simply place in a sealed bag, flatten and store in the freezer.
- Mini canapé pikelets: Mini pikelets are the perfect base for a variety of savoury canapés and can remain frozen for a few weeks. Make sure they are placed in sealed bags to avoid ice crystals forming. Add low fat cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill for a quick and easy version of a canape classic. Try using wholemeal flour or adding almond meal to your pikelets for an extra fibre and protein boost.
2. Fridge time:
Par-cooking (or partial cooking) is a great time-saving trick that is perfect for entertaining at Christmas. With all foods, the general rule is to not leave them in the fridge for more than three days before eating. Some foods that can be partially prepared in advance include:
- Roast potatoes: Steam for 20 minutes. You can either place them in the oven immediately after steaming for a further 20 minutes or cool, cover and refrigerate, leaving the roasting until the actual day. For a healthier take on the classic roast spud, use olive oil instead of the meat juices and roast them in a separate pan. Choose low GI Carisma potatoes or sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes for lower GI option.
- Pasta salads: Cook the pasta a few days before, rinse, pat dry and chill. Try to remove as much moisture as possible to avoid destroying the integrity of the pasta and creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Choose higher protein, reduced carb pastas, wholemeal pasta or even the new ‘high fibre’ white pasta for additional health benefits.
- Turkey: Cook in advance, cool and refrigerate. You can then serve the meat cold or reheat on the day. Turkey is a great meat option for diabetics as it’s so lean, but it also means it has a tendency to become dry, especially when reheating. A quick fix is to simply add a drop of water or oil before placing in the oven.
Tip 3: Healthier versions of your Christmas Day favourites
It’ all too easy for healthy eating and exercise routines to take a backseat during the Christmas season, with festive treats like rum balls, puddings and shortbread proving irresistible for some. But these healthier homemade alternatives prove that it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too:
- Protein balls: Substitute rum balls for delicious protein balls made with nuts, seeds and superfood fruits. Combine cranberries, coconut and dates for a seemingly indulgent snickers-like snack with fewer calories. View the full recipe here.
- Christmas pudding: Let’s face it, how can we go without Christmas pudding? If this is one Christmas Day treat you find impossible to resist, reduce the calorie content by forgoing the cream for a healthier option. Try serving it with a raspberry coulis with fresh blended raspberries, lime juice and just a dash of maple syrup. A low GI honey such as a floral variety is another great alternative.
- Trifle: This is another classic dessert that can easily be adapted by switching out the cream for a lower calorie option. Try using low fat Greek yoghurt in place of whipped cream, stick to fresh fruit that is naturally sweet like raspberries and strawberries, and use a sugar free cake mix and low fat milk to create the sponge layers. Click here for the full recipe.
Tip 4: Tee-totalling tipples
If you have diabetes, experts recommend drinking only in moderation – and Christmas is no exception. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get into the festive spirit on Christmas Day without touching a drop.
Mocktails are a delicious and healthy alternative to sugary pre-mixed drinks and are the perfect refreshment on a hot summer day. Have a holly, jolly and hangover-free Christmas by trying these refreshing mocktail recipes:
- Festive mango mocktail: Mangoes are synonymous with summer. Blend ¼ cup of mango pulp with 1 cup of mineral water and a dash of lime juice. Top with crushed ice and line your glass with some sweetener for an extra sweet hit! Alternatively, blend ½ cup pineapple juice and ½ cup mineral water. Add a sprig of mint and place a wedge of pineapple on the rim of the glass.
- Sparkling raspberry and lime mocktail: A perfect Christmas Day pick-me-up this refreshing mocktail contains a source of fibre in every serve and is also a good source of Vitamin C without any added sugar. Click here for the full recipe.
- Pine mint and ginger spritzer: An exotic, non-alcoholic beverage with fresh pineapple, ginger and mint leaves with plenty of zing and a hint of sweetness. This festive, summer mocktail offers a punch of Vitamin C from fresh pineapple and other powerful anti-oxidant effects from ginger and fresh mint. View the full recipe here.