From alcohol to desserts, here are some swaps to make your Christmas a little lighter, according to our resident dietitian Melissa Meier.
For many people, Christmas is a food fest. Not just one day, but a month-long celebration of catching up with (almost) every person you’ve ever known – usually over delicious food and drinks. If that describes your December to a tee, it’ll pay to make some healthier decisions around festive fodder. To give you a helping hand, here are my top seven tips to make not only Christmas day lunch but the entire silly season, a little more nutritious.
1. Follow the healthy plate model
The number one rule to follow for healthy eating is the healthy plate model – and the good news is, it’s pretty easy to implement. Simply fill half of your plate with vegetables (aside from potato and corn), a quarter of your plate with protein (think: meat, seafood, legumes) and the last quarter with carbs (potato, corn or grains). This is a fool-proof method for building a balanced meal with the right ratio of macro and micronutrients.
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2. Swap your standard vino for a spritzer
Alcohol is packed with calories and can easily contribute to weight gain if you overdo it. For a lighter choice, turn your go-to wine into a spritzer – that is, a 50/50 combo of wine and soda water. Half the wine = half the calories (and don’t worry, it still tastes delicious).
3. Opt for vinaigrette-style dressings rather than creamy ones
Yes, pasta and potato salads taste delicious, but if they’re covered in mayo, they’re not the healthiest selections. If you’re the head chef, I’d suggest making a healthier (and far tastier) dressing out of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs and spices.
4. Try your luck with legumes
Legumes (read: beans, chickpeas and lentils) are incredibly good for you, packed with plant-based protein, gut-loving fibre and slow-burning carbs – so if they’re on offer, I’d suggest digging in. If you’re the cook, whip up a tasty vego main meal with beans or lentils as the base, or try chickpeas in your usual mix of roasted veggies.
5. Tweak your desserts
A world without dessert is a world I don’t want to live in – but diving into a mountain of pavlova and ice cream every day of December isn’t the most sensible decision. If you’re making dessert at home, easy swaps like almond meal instead of white flour, mashed banana instead of sugar or olive oil instead of butter can make the world of difference.
6. Fill up on seafood
If you’re lucky enough to be treated to a seafood spread, go for it – seafood is far leaner than traditional options like stuffed chicken with the skin on.
Fresh fish, prawns, oysters… you name it, it’s good for you. But, skip the cured fish (smoked salmon or trout, for example) as it’s very high in sodium.
7. Swap butter for olive oil
A bread roll on the side is part and parcel of any meal for many – but with lashings of butter, it can quickly turn a healthy plate of food into a health food blunder.
Instead, dip your bread into a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. With healthy unsaturated fats, not only is it delicious but oh-so-good for you, too.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.