This article has been written especially for The Casual Food Blogger readers by Evelyn Robinson.
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Christmas is renowned as a time of year for ditching the diet and indulging on delicious food and drinks. The traditional Christmas lunch, naughty nibbles, sweet treats and luscious liqueur drinks can really only lead to two things: an expanding waist line or a miserable abstainer.
Livestrong suggest that the average person puts on around 1lb in weight during the holiday period alone. This may not sound like a gigantic amount for the festive season but it is considerably above average for such a short amount of time. Luckily, with a bit of planning, there is a way to have the best of both worlds and enjoy delicious food and drinks without piling on the pounds. Here are some ways to adapt your Christmas meals so that they are healthy and nutritious.
Generally speaking white meat tends to be much lower in fat than dark or red meat and luckily turkey, the traditional Christmas bird, is one of the lowest fat meats around as well as being a good source of protein and B vitamins – essential for the slow burning energy that you’ll need to see you through a hectic Christmas day! The skin on a turkey is where most of the fat is and by removing it you can save between 40-50 calories per portion. Needless to say you should refrain from basting it in butter or other rich, fattening sauce/juices.
Ham is another popular centrepiece for an Australian Christmas dinner – again you should glaze/baste it sparingly and remember to trim any fat. We’re lucky here in Oz to have the option of barbequing our Christmas lunch which is a healthy way of cooking any lean cut of meat. Or for something different, consider serving seafood. White flesh fished and shellfish such as scallops and mussels are low in fat and packed with vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Beware of overdoing it on the shrimp though – although low in fat, this shellfish is notoriously high in cholesterol.
Results from a survey carried out by the Australian government suggest that Australians of all ages do not eat enough vegetables – Christmas could be the time to start remedying this for the coming year. Serve a variety of vegetables with your lunch and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Pumpkin, asparagus and zucchini will all go brilliantly against your traditional carrots, broccoli and potatoes. Where possible, steam or roast your vegetables and flavour with a thin broth, herbs or citrus juice if necessary.
Why not serve a baked potato as an alternative to fattening roasts? These may be tasty but they transform an otherwise fat free potato into calorific indulgence.
If you plan to make gravy from the meat juices then you can simply leave them to stand, then spoon off the excess fat as it rises to the top before continuing with the gravy making process.
Traditional Christmas pudding is actually relatively low in fat and contains potassium, vitamins and iron due to its fruity content. However, smothering it in double cream or stodgy custard will significantly up your calorie intake. Instead use fat free whipped cream or frozen yoghurt as an alternative.
Similarly, substitute any creamy fillings in cheesecakes or pies with reduced fat cheese and low fat milk. Add oats rather than sugar to crisp up a crumble or flaky, filo dough as a replacement for regular pastry in a Christmas pie. Or, if you want to be really good, ditch the sugary treats in favour of some cooked or poached seasonal fruit.
Generally speaking, even the more ‘good-for-you’ desserts such as Christmas pudding are still typically high in sugar so portion control is definitely important here.
Picking on nibbles is one of the easiest sins to commit at Christmas, but luckily substituting your usual yuletide snacks for similar style food is also suprisingly easy. Instead of chips and dip, why not dunk raw vegetables such as celery and carrots into hummus or low fat, yoghurt? Nuts are also a great snack – they may be high in fat but it is mostly unsaturated and they also contain zinc, iron and essential fatty acids.
Plain popcorn is a guilt free snack with barely any calorific value and any sweet or savoury mince pies that you make can be served without the pastry lid to help cut down on the additional fat content.
It’s not uncommon for people to celebrate Christmas with a glass of something fizzy or creamy. Homemade eggnog is a Christmas favourite and can be adapted, like the rest of your meals, to be lower in fat. Simply use low fat whipping cream and 1% milk along with a dash of brandy and nutmeg to achieve that familiar, festive flavour at approximately 140 calories per glass.
Spirits such as vodka and gin are much lower in fat than wine (providing they are mixed with an appropriate mixer such as diet soda or tonic). Or why not try and make your own healthy Christmas cocktails by infusing bourbon or whisky with cloves and spices.
Whatever your tipple, drinks should be enjoyed responsibly. With research indicating that the average Austrailian’s alcohol intake triples over the festive period, it’s no surpise that alcohol treatment and alcohol induced illnesses begin increasing in time for the new year.
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