In the midst of summer and bathers season, a week of feasting may be the last thing you need.
With the lure of Christmas puddings and buffet-style abundance, adults will gain approximately half a kilogram on average over the Christmas period.
If you plan to cater an event this year, use these healthy substitutions for your favourite Christmas classics, and keep yourself in shape for the beach!
Out: Water crackers with pate and oil-based dips
In: Wholemeal pita crisps and chopped veggies with tzatziki, salsa, or homemade dips
Let’s face it – no one sticks with the recommended 20g serve when it comes to dips and pate!
And with 30-50% fat, these condiments can pack a calorie punch even before the mains and desserts arrive!
Yoghurt-based dips such as tzatziki, and tomato salsas, offer a much lighter alternative and contain less than 10% fat.
If you love dip varieties that are oil based, such as hummus, try making them yourself at home. Chances are you will use a lot less oil than commercial brands!
A good tip for reducing the fat content of a homemade dip is to swap 1/3 to 1/2 of the recommended oil content with water. Trust us, it still works!
The ‘vehicle’ for the dip is also important. Water crackers contain highly refined carbohydrates and very little nutritional value, so swap them for low GI homemade pita crisps and vitamin-packed veggie sticks.
Out: Traditional prawn cocktail
In: Summer prawn, avocado and mango lettuce cups
Prawns are a real treat, and are great to offer your guests as a light entrée on special occasions.
However, traditional prawn cocktail recipes for Christmas focus heavily on calorie-rich mayonnaise and sugary sauces like ketchup, which you may want to avoid.
Don’t panic – you can keep the prawns as a highlight, but just try serving them in a healthier way.
For example, a summer-inspired entrée of diced prawns, avocado, tomato, cucumber and mango sitting in fresh cos lettuce leaves, with a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Out: Roast ham
In: Roast turkey
If you have high blood pressure, or are prone to fluid retention, beware of the Christmas ham! At 1,200mg sodium per 100g, roasted ham has over 100% more salt than turkey, as well as being slightly higher in saturated fat and sugars.
If you’ve never attempted a roast turkey before, it’s just like roasting a large chicken. Ask your supplier for guidance with regard to cooking time, but as a guide, Jamie Oliver recommends to weigh the turkey, and allow 20 minutes of cooking time per 500g.
For a festive flair, search for a stuffing recipe that contains dried fruits and nuts, and fresh herbs.
Out: Snags and steaks on the barbeque
In: Fish and seafood on the barbeque
The World Health Organisation published research in 2018 linking higher intakes of sausage meats and red meat with colorectal cancer.
Unfortunately, this research also showed that our great Aussie tradition of barbequing meats increases the health risk, by triggering the production of harmful carcinogens.
The good news is fish and seafood, particularly oily varieties such as salmon, contain beneficial antioxidants and nutrients such as Omega-3’s that protect our bodies against cancer and other diseases.
And, barbequing them does not produce carcinogens, so you can still enjoy the tradition!
Out: Pavlova with cream
In: Eton mess with yoghurt and berries
The great Aussie pav might seem like a ‘light’ dessert when compared to a Christmas fruit pudding. However, it can deliver a whole meal’s worth of calories in a single slice, particularly if it’s topped with a sweet whipped cream.
Keep the spirit of this dessert, but reduce the fat and sugar content by creating a healthy Eton mess, one of England’s best-loved desserts.
In individual glasses or a large glass bowl, layer crushed meringue (homemade or purchased), Greek yoghurt swirled with honey or jam, and fresh seasonal fruits such as nectarines, cherries, and berries.
In the spirit of Christmas, you might like to try soaking your fruit in brandy or Cointreau for 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.
Out: Fruit mince tarts
In: Scones with brandy-soaked dried fruit
Boozy dried fruit and Christmas go hand in hand, but if you are watching your waistline over the summer period, you might need to look beyond the traditional fruit mince pies to get your fix.
A basic scone contains far less butter than pastry shells, and can be an excellent vehicle for your brandy-soaked raisins, currents, dried apricots and mixed peel.
Simply add your soaked fruits to a traditional scone dough, mix it through, and bake as per recipe.
Simple Christmas recipes
Are you struggling to come up with your own nutritious Christmas recipes in time for the big day?
Here’s an easy Christmas side salad and healthy Christmas dessert.
1. Christmas colour salad
If you’re after a quick throw-together festive salad, then this is the one for you!
Combine sliced cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, chopped bocconcini and a simple dressing (olive oil, balsamic glaze, salt and pepper). Serve this as a side to any Christmas protein such as turkey.
2. Mango and passion fruit trifle cups
These desserts are as attractive as they are delicious!
First, combine 2 cups of natural Greek yoghurt with ¾ cup fresh passion fruit pulp. Optional – add 1tbs honey for sweetness.
Place a small dollop of yoghurt mix in your small serving glass, then layer with 1-2tbs toasted granola (homemade, or we suggest Carmen’s Fruit Free Muesli or Jordan’s Crunchy Oat Granola Extra Nutty).
Add another layer of yoghurt, then top with fresh diced mango. Finally, add your third layer of yoghurt, and top with frozen or fresh raspberries, shaved coconut and slivered almonds.
Confused by food?
If you have any questions about diet and nutrition, chat with your GP or our resident dietitian, Jessica Fuller.
Have a happy and healthy Christmas!
Source: The Nutrition Code
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs. Last updated 17 December 2021.