By Accredited Practising Dietitian Melissa Meier, founder of Honest Nutrition
With the silly season fast approaching, many people find their calendars chock-full with social events. Apart from spending quality time with loved ones, these social occasions mean one thing in particular: delicious food and drink – and lots of it. While diet culture would have you believe that indulging in Christmas fare will add centimetres to your waistline in the blink of an eye, as a dietitian, I’ve got other ideas.
You see, Christmas is just one day. Sure, the festive season stretches out a little longer than that, but what you do in terms of nutrition throughout the year leading up to December will have a much larger impact on your health compared to the few weeks leading up to Christmas.
That’s not an excuse to eat anything and everything under the sun until you’re bursting at the seams, though. As always, balance and moderation is key – I’m just saying there’s no need to feel guilty about enjoying a slice of pavlova, a couple of glasses of champagne or a scoop of delectable Christmas pudding with your nearest and dearest.
But, if you find yourself unsure of how to strike that perfect balance, I’ve got two top tips for you: keep portion size in mind and ‘crowd out’ the ‘less-healthy’ foods.
Keeping portion sizes in check will help to avoid unnecessary kilojoules over Christmas. Think: individually packaged sweets, bite-sized treats and mini cakes or pies. Doing so will also encourage you to eat more mindfully, because you’ll be more likely to savour each mouthful, rather than eat spoonful after spoonful without a second thought. ALDI has a great range of portion controlled Christmas treats on offer. My favourites include:
- Choceur Little Bundles of Joy Santas – we all know how tempting it is to keep going back for more once the chocolate block has been opened. These individually-wrapped chocolate Santas will satisfy that sweet craving without going overboard.
- The Cake Stall Mini Pavlova – rather than huge pavlova slices, these mini nests make portion control easy. Simply dollop some fresh cream or yoghurt on top and scatter over a handful of tasty seasonal fruit.
- Belmont Biscuit Co Gingermen Biscuit – instead of the whole gingerbread house, these cute little biccies have the same great taste, for just 40 calories per ginger man.
- Specially Selected Mini Christmas Tarts – these perfectly portioned tarts are a great treat on their own, coming in at 99 calories for the Caramel Pecan variety. Who would have thought that caramel would have a place in a balanced Christmas diet!
Now for my second hot tip, ‘crowding’… To explain this theory, I’m going to use my all-time favourite party food: the cheeseboard.
Typically covered in treats like creamy dips, antipasto meats and an array of cheeses, the good old cheeseboard is a party-pleaser – but can also be a calorie bomb should you go overboard. So, what’s the solution? You don’t need to wipe everybody’s favourites off the board – simply ‘crowd’ the board with more nutritious options. To give you a better idea, here’s my suggestions for building a healthier platter:
- Make fresh produce the focus by filling the board with chopped up veggie sticks and seasonal fruit, like berries, cherries and stone fruit.
- Opt for healthy dips like Deli Originals Topped Hummus with Pine Nuts or Deli Originals Traditional Greek Style Tzatziki Dip instead of the traditional high-salt creamy ones. When choosing a healthy dip, scan the nutrition panel and aim for less than 400mg sodium per 100g. It also pays to read the ingredients list and opt for something that’s vegetable or yoghurt-based.
- You can’t have a cheeseboard without the cheese – but you don’t need giant wheels and wedges taking up most of the cheeseboard real estate. Instead, opt for smaller varieties, like 125g Emporium Selection Camembert or Brie.
- Last but not least, wholegrain crackers provide a boost of fibre and slow-burning energy to leave you feeling satisfied. I’d opt for Damora Brown Rice Crackers Multigrain or Damora Vita Grain Sesame for the perfect crunch to tie it all together.
And there you have it! All it takes is just these two simple tips to keep your health in check this season, without feeling like you have to miss out.