Healthy options and portion sizes

a woman having breakfast at christmas10 Healthy Tweaks for your Festive Feast

At Christmas time, we all like to enjoy those traditional foods that make this time of year so special, especially when celebrating with family and friends. But the abundance of rich food can mean that your healthy lifestyle really takes a hammering. Experts reckon that most people gain half a kilo over the Christmas holidays.
You can save a whole lot of extra calories by making these 10 small changes to the way you prepare Christmas dinner.
  1. Starters: Pigs in blankets, baked cheeses and other fatty foods won’t leave much room for you to enjoy your main course. Try melon and other fresh fruits, a leafy salad, or smoked salmon.
  2. Turkey: Turkey meat is naturally low in fat. Avoid the skin, though, as this is where most of the fat lies. Follow our recipe for the perfect roast turkey.
  3. Ham: Leave the fat on your ham while it is roasting as it will keep the meat moist, but trim if off before serving. Honey roast ham is especially festive.
  4. Gravy: No Christmas dinner is complete without gravy - but allow the juices to settle so you can skim off all fat before making it. 
  5. Stuffing: Sausage stuffing is great with Christmas dinner but maybe this year also include a delicious breadcrumb stuffing made with breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs, chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit like apricots and raisins. 
  6. Potatoes: Roast your potatoes separately from the turkey to cut out the animal fat. Use a little vegetable oil rather than butter and leave the potatoes whole. The smaller they are the more fat they will absorb. 
  7. Vegetables: Fill up on plenty of vegetables but avoid adding butter or rich sauces. Steam your vegetables rather than boil them to hold onto those valuable vitamins and minerals. For other vegetables, try honey or dash of lemon juice instead of butter.
  8. Pudding: After all that you might struggle to fit in some Christmas pudding. So why not wait and enjoy it later on? Have it with some custard made with low fat milk rather than cream or brandy butter.
  9. Alcohol: Always have a glass of water when you are drinking alcohol – cutting down by one glass of wine (125 ml) will save you around 100 calories. Find out how many calories are in your drinks here
  10. Portion sizes: With so many extra dishes on offer, we tend to load our plates with far more food than we would normally eat. Keep an eye on your portion sizes so you don’t end up eating more than usual.
Catherine Conlon, safefood’s Director of Human Health and Nutrition has more tips on how to keep your family healthy and happy this Christmas.


More healthy options for over the holidays

Start the day with a healthy breakfast

  • Try unsweetened muesli with some natural yoghurt, a drizzle of honey and half a chopped banana.
  • Porridge is filling option. Add a festive twist by adding some dried figs or dates.
  • A cooked breakfast doesn’t have to be unhealthy - try scrambled eggs with grilled tomato, or wholemeal toast with beans from the microwave for a hot, savoury start to your day.
  • Serve fruit with some pancakes or whizzed up to make a delicious and nutritious smoothie.

Have a light lunch

  • A tasty winter vegetable soup like carrot and parsnip, leek and potato, or tomato and basil are all good sources of vitamin C.
  • These soups are great when accompanied by wholegrain bread topped with a little melted cheese or some crunchy wholegrain crackers.
  • Herbs are also great in soups for added flavour instead of salt - try coriander with carrot, cumin in parsnip and black pepper in leek and potato soup. 

Keep healthy snacks to hand

  • Satsumas and other seasonal fruits such as mango are festive options. Dried fruit makes a great snack too.
  • Keep a jug of water on the table – it will encourage you to drink it.
  • Do not buy sugar-sweetened drinks – if it’s not in the house you can’t drink it.
  • If you’re settling in for an evening movie, snack on unsalted nuts, popcorn or small strips of pitta bread with low-fat dips, rather than crisps and choccies.
  • If the house is full of selection boxes and chocolates tins, put some away to enjoy in the New Year. If you leave them out, people will tend to snack on them without thinking.

Stay out of the kitchen at parties

  • Don’t munch on bowls of crisps and nuts at parties, just take a few and then move away.
  • If you’re entertaining at home, raw vegetables like carrots, celery and cauliflower chopped and served with dips such as salsa are tasty and low in calories, as are olives with thin slices of French bread. 

Stay active

  • Staying active over Christmas also has huge benefits for your body and mind. Head to the beach for the Christmas swim – even if you’re not going in you can cheer on the swimmers and you’ll benefit from the walk.
  • Christmas time is family time – use it to get out and about for adventures together. Get outside, clear your head and walk your way to a healthier Christmas.




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