Life Wellbeing How to indulge at Christmas without letting it get to your waistline
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How to indulge at Christmas without letting it get to your waistline

Making the festive season healthier doesn't have to be a drag. Photo: Getty
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A little festive indulgence never hurt anybody. But a month-long binge on the sweet and fatty stuff can quickly turn your season of cheer to a sluggish affair.

To help you avoid overindulging this Christmas, The New Daily asked dietitians for their tips on surviving the silly season. And we know you’ll love the first piece of advice: Enjoy those special meals without any guilt.

Savour every bite

You don’t have to miss out on your favourite foods this Christmas. But when you do indulge, pick only a handful of the foods that you think you’ll really enjoy – then go ahead and savour every bite, dietitian Simone Austin said.

“Eat really slowly, and enjoy what you’re eating, then stop when you’re feeling full,” Ms Austin said.

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You don’t have to give up your favourite treats over Christmas. Plan ahead and savour the special food moments. Photo: Australian Eggs

Ms Austin said given the abundance of food and drink readily available to us nowadays the concept of mindful eating has taken a back seat.

“When you think back to older generations, Christmas was really a special time because you had these meals on occasion, and not all the time,” she said.

“So it’s about trying to keep Christmas a little bit special … and keeping the big, indulgent meals to during the Christmas week.”

Plan ahead and be selective

With so many holiday party invitations and events flying your way, it can be difficult to work out how much you’ve already overindulged in any given week.

“Plan ahead and pick the events where you’re going to have a bit of a drink, and the events where you might take a break from alcohol,” Ms Austin said.

Apart from the well-known effects of alcohol on your health and waistline, excessive alcohol can also affect your sleep.

“When you get poor sleep you don’t want to exercise and you often want to eat sugary foods that give you that ‘pick me up’,” she said.

Go with healthier gift alternatives

Now might be the time to re-think the standard chocolate gift, and opt for something lighter instead.

“Think about what you would want for yourself to improve your health, and maybe gift it to another person as well,” Ms Austin said.

Freshly picked cherries, or a punnet of blueberries are great gift ideas – and a more thoughtful alternative to the millionth hand cream or box of chocolates most likely to be exchanged around the world this Christmas.

“Gourmet olive oils, balsamic vinegars and fermented produce which are really on-trend right now, are also some great gift ideas,” Ms Austin said.

Be creative with veggies and sides

Whether it’s a hearty roast or a summer barbecue, don’t just plan around the meat this Christmas. There are plenty of simple ways to incorporate fresh, in-season vegetables into your meal plan.

Add corn on the cob, or make veggie kebabs with roasted capsicum, tomato or halloumi.

Inject a protein boost into your salads with cashews, almonds or macadamia nuts. For a sweet twist, add vitamin-packed fruits, such as mango slices, to your green salad.

Lighter options such as a quiche or tart (like the below recipe) are also perfect for summer lunches.

Watch out for high-calorie, low-nutrition fillers

One of the easiest ways to avoid piling on the kilos this festive season is to stick with delicious, freshly prepared foods rather than packaged nasties.

“Pies, biscuits and manufactured cakes often use cheap vegetable oils and lots of sugar,” Ms Austin said.

“Sugary drinks and soft drinks can have 10 per cent sugar, so you’re already adding a lot of sugar without any nutritional value.”

Better alternatives are soda or sparkling water, with slices of strawberry, lemon, mint or orange for extra flavour.

“Even just putting drinks in nice jugs, or craft glasses for people who are not drinking alcohol beverages can make it more special,” she said.

Dietitian Sharon Natoli said people should still enjoy treats over the festive season, only in smaller portions.

“Strike a balance by including high-protein options that leave you feeling fuller for longer, such as fish, nuts, yoghurt and eggs,” she said.

To avoid the dreaded Christmas bloat, she recommended:

  • Slowing down with each bite to avoid gulping down air with your food
  • Drinking 2-2.5 litres of water per day
  • Adding physical activity and exercise whenever you can
  • Keeping stress levels down, which can contribute to poor gut health and bloating

RECIPE: Summer vegetable tart with mixed beetroot salad

Serves: 6
Prep: 15 minutes
Cooking: 45 minutes

Vegetable tart
2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
3 eggs
¼ cup single cream
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
¾ cup frozen broad beans, thawed and podded
1 small bunch (total weight 100g) asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced into rounds
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Mixed beetroot salad
1 small bunch heirloom beetroot, scrubbed
2 radishes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup baby mint leaves

1. Preheat oven to 150°C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 24cm fluted, loose bottom tart tin. Place the pastry sheets on a large piece of non-stick baking paper, overlapping the pastry by 3cm. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of non-stick baking paper until large enough to line the tin. Carefully place in the tin and gently press into base and side. Trim the edges with a small sharp knife. Place the tart on a baking tray and prick the pastry base with a fork.

2. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the weights and cook for a further five minutes, or until the pastry is dry. Remove from the oven and set aside while making the filling.

3. To make the filling, whisk the eggs, cream, parmesan, half the ricotta, parsley, salt and pepper until combined. Pour over the base, scatter with peas, broad beans and asparagus and dot the remaining ricotta over the top. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until cooked through. It will still have a slight wobble. Set aside to cool completely. Refrigerate until cold.

4. Thinly slice the beetroot and radish on a mandolin or with a peeler and place in a bowl. Add lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.

5. Top the vegetable tart with the salad and herbs to serve.

Recipe courtesy of Australian Eggs

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