The festive season is a time of joy and celebration, where people celebrate in the company of a variety of friends and a variety of food and drinks. How can you balance your healthy eating priorities and still enjoy this period? Learn how to sail through this festive session and stay in shape for the coming year.
In your weight management efforts to achieve/maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI), you may think that indulging on food and drinks during the Christmas and New Year season may not seem like such a big deal as they only come once a year. However, you should still practice the principles of healthy eating to reduce the risk of unwanted weight gain. Listed below are some tips to help you stay in shape during this festive season.
Healthy eating at parties and buffets – Fill up beforehand
Avoid going to a party on an empty stomach. Before leaving the house, eat a high-fibre snack such as a fruit or a few pieces of wheat crackers to help curb your appetite, and prevent over-eating.
The brain takes about 20 minutes to register fullness. Therefore, enjoy your meals by savouring the flavour of each bite.
Remember your 2 + 2
Most fruit and vegetables are naturally low in fat and high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Start your meals with a generous helping of fresh salad dressed with lemon juice and a little drizzle of olive oil instead of creamy dressings. Opt for fresh fruit for dessert.
Go easy on fat
Over consumption of fat may lead to weight gain. Limit your consumption of cream based food (e.g. cream based pasta), food with cheese as part of the main ingredients (e.g. cheese macaroni), deep fried food (e.g. breaded food and fritters) as well as food with visible fat on meat and poultry skin.
Focus on the quality and not the quantity of food. Hence, you need not deprive yourself of your favourite food. Eat small amounts of it and avoid going for seconds. If you think this is not an option, go easy on your desserts or other mains. You can also try using smaller serving dishes to eat so the food looks abundant on your plate.
Limit your alcohol and sweetened beverage intake
Many people do not realise that consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or sweetened beverages may lead to weight gain. Therefore you may want to limit your intake of such beverages. Here are some tips to help you do that.
- Request for plain water, sparkling mineral water, unsweetened ice tea or sugar-free soft drinks.
- For house parties, you can chose to bring along reduced sugar/sugar-free beverages and share it among your friends.
- Offer to be the designated driver so you will be obliged to limit/avoid alcoholic beverages for the safety of others.
- Give a firm reason for avoiding alcohol (e.g. early morning appointment).
- Drink slowly. Make a glass of wine last longer to avoid refills.
For festive cooking
Whether you are cooking a Christmas feast or an end-of-year party for your loved ones or cooking a dish for the pot-luck party, you can choose to prepare a healthier meal/dish as a gift. You can use the following tips as a guide.
Use healthier ingredients
- You can reduce the amount of fat and sodium of a dish if you use healthier version of ingredients. Look for claims on food labels such as low/reduced fat, or low/reduce/light in salt/sodium. Examples of such ingredients are low fat milk, and reduced/low sodium soya sauce.
- Do remember to go easy on the amount of oil, sugar and salt used in your recipe.
- Boost the fibre and nutrient content of your dish by using whole-grain ingredients (e.g. substitute white flour with wholemeal flour when baking Christmas cookies or wholemeal bread for white bread when making bread pudding).
Skip the drippings
- Avoid using the meat loaf or turkey drippings for making gravy as they are very high in fat. You may partially or fully replace drippings with reduced sodium stock.
Choose healthier cooking methods
- Use healthier cooking methods such as boiling, steaming, baking, roasting or grilling as these methods reduce the amount of fat in the dish. For example, you can achieve the same crispy effects of deep frying finger food by baking them instead.
Make healthier desserts
- Instead of Christmas pudding or fruit cake, why not try using fresh fruit as the main ingredient for desserts (e.g. frozen tropical fruit kababs, yoghurt fruit salad topped with pomegranate and baked apples).
Play your part by contributing a healthy dish at a pot-luck. By encouraging everyone to do the same, you will end up with an array of healthy dishes at the party! For more ideas, click here.
Chicken and Leek Pie (Serves 6)
This pie combines chicken, leek, peas and carrots, in a creamy herb sauce. Low in fat and packed with protein and fibre, this heart-warming dish will surely be a popular crowd pleaser!
Ingredients for Pie Filling
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large leeks (white and light green parts only), well washed and thinly sliced
- 1 cups carrots, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons wholemeal flour
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, or teaspoon dried sage
- 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups diced cooked chicken
- 1 cup frozen peas
- teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Ingredients for Mashed Potato
- 1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- cup low-fat milk
- teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 218 C. Heat 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and carrots and saut for about 7 minutes. Add garlic and continue to saut for another 1 minute.
- Add flour and sage to the vegetables. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes or until the flour starts to turn light brown.
- Make a thick sauce by gradually adding chicken broth to the flour and vegetable mixture. Keep stirring for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- Add chicken and peas, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a deep 23 cm pie pan or baking dish and set aside.
- Cook potatoes over medium heat in a large saucepan of water for 10 minutes or until tender. Once the potatoes are soft enough for mashing, transfer the potatoes into a colander and drain well.
- Mash the potatoes. Add small amounts of low-fat milk at intervals to make a smooth puree. Stir in an egg and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the pie filling mixture in the pie pan or baking dish. With the back of a spoon, make decorative swirls. Set the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes and filling are heated through and the top is golden brown.
Chocolate Almond Pudding (Serves 4)
Lower in saturated fat and easy to make, this recipe s blend of rich chocolate and almonds compliment each other perfectly.
- 50 g unsweetened dark chocolate
- 1 slice of wholemeal bread
- 2 tablespoon low-fat milk
- 50 g unsalted trans-fat free margarine
- 50 g ground almonds
- 60 g sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 egg white
- Melt the chocolate. Cut the crust off the bread. Finely crumble the bread and mix together with the milk until well-combined.
- Grease cupcake moulds or heatproof cups (150ml) with some of the margarine.
- Beat the remaining margarine and 30 g sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in the egg yolks. Add the chocolate, bread crumbs mixture and almonds.
- Whisk the egg white with 30 g sugar and fold into the mixture.
- Fill the moulds or heatproof cups with the pudding mixture until they are full and cover well with heatproof foil. Steam for 30 minutes.
- When pudding is ready, carefully turn them out onto plates and serve with low fat whipped cream.
Healthy gift ideas
Christmas and New Year gifts do not need to be confined to champagnes and chocolates. Buy your loved one and friends a gift of health to kick start the new year ahead!
For the sport enthusiast
- Gym Membership: The holidays often offer special packages for gyms. Buying a promotional card is a great way to stay in shape during the festive season.
- Gift vouchers: Vouchers for exercise classes are a great idea to garner interest in a new sport. Select from a wide variety of different sports to cater to the person s interest.
- Pedometer: A pedometer (step-counter) is a great gift to motivate someone to exercise and keep track of the number of steps taken daily.
- Fitness outfits: Encourage your loved one and friends to exercise by buying them fitness apparels or equipment. Choose from a wide selection from runner gear to yoga mat.
For the health conscious cooking enthusiast
- Non-stick pan: A non-stick pan is a great gift for those looking to prepare healthy low fat dishes.
- Microwave oven: Microwave is great for quick and convenient low fat cooking.
- Blender: Instead of a juicer, which strips away the beneficial fibre, buy your loved one a blender to make blended juice. Having blended juice is great way to start a morning and a refreshing way to achieve your daily dose of vitamins and fibre.
- Healthy cookbook: A compilation of healthy recipes is sure to ignite the interest of the cooking enthusiast.
Gifts for the mind and body
- Gift certificate for spa/massage
- Books for mind games
- Books of inspirational quotes
- Practice healthy eating during this festive season to stay in shape.
- Choose healthier food and exercise portion control at parties and buffets.
- If you cook, make healthier dishes to bring the gift of health to your loved ones and friends.
- Buy your loved ones and friends gifts that encourages a healthier lifestyle