For most of us the holidays are a time to kick back, relax and indulge in rich food and drink. We asked dietician Rachel Harris for some practical tips on how to make the most of the season, while keeping our health in mind.
When you’re going to Christmas parties, it’ll be easier to avoid overeating if you’re not too hungry when you arrive. Eat a healthy snack, such as:
- a 200g tub of reduced fat yoghurt
- a ham or tuna sandwich
- a handful of nuts or seeds
If it’s a lunchtime event, eat a healthy breakfast followed midmorning by a high-fibre snack (an apple/small handful of nuts). If the party is after work, enjoy a protein-packed lunch like grilled fish or chicken with a salad and then later in the afternoon have another high-fibre snack.
Aim for moderate portions
Christmas comes once a year, so I think enjoying your food is important. Perhaps being more mindful of the portions is what really counts.
Use the plate model (9in plate) to guide your portions
- Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables: combine green vegetables with yellow/orange ones (broccoli, red peppers, squash, and beets)
- A portion of turkey or ham should cover about a quarter of your plate or about the size of a deck of cards, roughly 3 oz.
- The last quarter is for your starch. For example half of a cup of rice and peas and half of a cup of stuffing. Remember, rice, sweet potatoes, macaroni pie, stuffing, plantain and corn all count towards your serving of starch.
- Eat your salad or vegetables first. This can help you avoid eating too much. Avoid second helpings unless your choice is vegetables.
Savour and enjoy every bite!
If you’re eating turkey, go for the white meat, and skip the skin that adds extra fat and calories. Remove the fat and skin from baked ham.
Cook stuffing separate to the meat so it doesn’t soak up fats during cooking. Try using wholegrain breads for stuffing to increase your intake of fibre.
When making gravy, let the turkey/meat juices rise and skim the fat off the top before making your gravy.
Watch out for food choices loaded with calories: a single slice of cheesecake has 400 calories and 28g grams of fat.
Treat yourself by sampling a selection or two, rather than having full servings, for example half a slice of plain cake, or 1 small scoop of ice-cream with fruit salad.
Pay attention to your drink
- Sweet cocktails are packed with calories. A glass of Ponche Crema has 350 calories and 19 grams of fat without the rum.
- Use club soda instead of tonic water in your drinks. (There are 125 calories in a glass of tonic water, while soda water is calorie-free). Try using coconut water, water, or diet soft drinks as mixers. Drink alcohol in moderation. Over-consuming alcohol can lead to weight gain as alcohol is high in calories.
- Use less sugar in the preparation of homemade drinks (sorrel, ginger beer). Measure the sugar that you add so that you become more aware.
- Drink plenty of water. Make sure you are sufficiently hydrated throughout the day. For every glass of alcohol or soft drink, have a glass of water.
Reduce your intake of salt
Boil your ham before baking to remove as much salt as possible. Avoid adding pigtail, salted meat, and stock cubes to rice or other dishes. Use fresh herbs, garlic, onions, and sweet peppers to flavour your foods.
Modify baked recipes
Reduce the sugar in recipes and add dried fruit, vanilla/almond extracts to naturally sweeten. Apple sauce can be successfully used in recipes to replace some of the fat.
- Stay away from the buffet table so you avoid ‘mindless’ eating.
- Stand more than an arm’s length away from snacks, like a bowl of nuts or chips.
Exercise regularly over the holidays (dancing, walking etc.)
Happy holidays from onecaribbeanhealth.org. See you next year!