Health

Have yourself a healthier Christmas with festive season survival tips

Make the most of holiday parties by eating delicious treats in moderation

The festive treats of this holiday season are one of the many things that people look forward to during this time of the year.

With a wealth of food around, it can also be a trying time.

But it is still possible to enjoy Christmas and not compromise on your health - even for those with diabetes.

Here are some small changes you can make to your holiday meals.

Tips for parties and social events

l Eat some healthy snacks before going to parties. This can help you feel less inclined to overeat at gatherings.

l Do not feel guilty about turning down unhealthy offers. Say "later" or say "no thanks" when offered food that you know will wreak havoc on your glucose levels.

l Slow down and enjoy your food with family and friends while eating. This helps you focus less on overindulging. Take time to savour the taste and texture of each dish, chew slowly and keep your mind off second servings.

Healthier food choices

l Have fun with traditional colours to help you choose healthier foods. Instead of picking processed foods that are high in simple sugars, use colours to focus more on fibre and protein-rich foods. For example, red (tomato, red capsicum, red cabbage, beet), green (spinach, kale, asparagus, fresh herbs) and white (cauliflower, zucchini, yogurt, white meat, beans).

l Bulk it up. Fill half your plate with vegetables. Choose non-starchy vegetables of different colours to add bulk to your meals. They are lower in calories and help you feel fuller for longer.

l Pair your foods well. Add a protein or dairy to your meals. Choose lean cuts of meats or low-fat dairy products to lower the overall glycaemic index. This also helps you have a smaller serving of the carbohydrate dishes.

Tips on drinking

l Do not drink your calories. Limit intake of drinks that are filled with empty calories such as soft drinks, mocktails and fibre-lacking juices. Instead, drink water or unsweetened beverages. Drinking water before meals also helps fill you up, reducing the urge to overindulge.

Physical activity

l Do take a walk after meals. This helps to lower your glucose levels. Even a 10-minute activity will be an effective way to keep your health in check. Or you can choose to dance your night away at the party.

Should you really skip those decadent desserts?

Most common Christmas favourites are high in simple sugars, saturated fat and empty calories, leading to weight gain and may cause your glucose levels to spike. However, you do not have to avoid them totally.

Limit your intake to having them only on the festive day rather than indulging for the rest of the holiday period. Go easy on fruit pudding, chocolate log cake, fruit mince pie and fruit cake if you cannot resist them, making sure you stick to a bite-sized piece.

You can also try to beat your craving by literally walking away from the food. Take a 10 to 15-minute stroll to enjoy some fresh air, as this can help release endorphins that help overcome cravings.

Alternatively, look for healthier substitutes that you can enjoy with some low-fat frozen yogurt.

These include a cupful of fresh apricots, cherries without seeds or strawberries with no stems, or even four pieces of biscotti.

Five healthier Christmas foods that you can enjoy in moderation

• A warm non-cream-based soup, like minestrone or tomato soup. This is a low-calorie starter that helps fill you up before your main meals. Use low-fat yogurt to make it creamier when preparing it at home.

• A good old roast turkey. This is a good choice of lean protein when you choose the breast portion and have it without skin. Go easy on the cranberry sauce though. When preparing it at home, try a walnut and almond meal stuffing instead of breadcrumbs and high-fat meat.

• Flavourful herbed roasted vegetables. Choose more of non-starchy vegetables like carrot, zucchini, parsnip, brussels sprout, broccoli, red/green/yellow bell peppers and cauliflower. Go easy on the butter and use an olive oil spray to reduce the calories.

• A cool and creamy dill dip. This is a healthier alternative to mayonnaise. When preparing it at home, use low-fat yogurt, mashed white beans and a clove of garlic to make a delicious white dip with the herbs of your choice and some lemon juice.

• Chicken cacciatore. This is a zesty veggie-packed chicken dish with olives and peppers that is not short on flavour. When preparing it at home, use chicken fillets or skinless chicken breasts to cut down on the fat and calories.

The writer is a senior dietitian and programme manager at Novi Health, a local health-tech company and medical practice.

Food & Drink