How to eat healthy this Christmas

Ahh Christmas. You either love it or you hate it. 

When it comes to food at Christmas, there is usually too much choice and not enough time to eat it. Christmas Day with my family includes turkey, ham, prawns, chicken, barbequed meats, baked potato, salads, and because we are Italian there is also Nonna's famous lasagna. Dessert includes pavlova topped with fruit and chocolate. In the afternoon most of the oldies have a nap (including myself), then we head to the beach for the extra rest and recoup followed by more food and entertaining extra guests and extended family in the evening.

If your Christmas is anything like mine, you're probably wondering how to eat healthy over Christmas and make it through the silly season feeling healthy, refreshing and ready for the New Year!

This article is full of tips and tricks to enjoy Christmas without the extra kilojoule gain.


Nutrition Bite: Eating healthy over Christmas can be a challenge but the key is to stay informed and go for mindful eating. Fill your plate with vegetables they are not only a source of antioxidants but fibre too which means you will be fuller for longer. Know your portions sizes, don’t eat everything instead choose a few things and really savour the flavour, know how much alcohol is enough, go for healthy swaps, and keep busy in the kitchen.
— Be Well Fed dietitian

Go for colour...and balance:

Fruit and vegetables are a great source of colour, texture and flavour. At the lunch and dinner table ensure there are an array of vegetable sides to keep the plate colourful. For a little bit of Christmas flair add dried cranberries to seared carrots or mint to green beans with olive oil. 

Enjoy a plate packed full of vegetables, a little bit of meat and a little bit of rice, lasagna or starchy vegetables such as corn or roast potato. 

If there is too much to choose from, go for your favourites and fill up on vegetables first. The fibre will keep you fuller for longer and prevent over consuming after lunch. Lean proteins are also great and will keep you satisfied. Trim excess fat before cooking or purchase the leaner cuts at the butcher.

Be aware of portion sizes:

It can be really easy to overindulge at Christmas. When entertaining ensure snacks are a balance between healthy and treat foods. For example, make a cheese platter with wholemeal and whole grain cracker and include colourful fruit and veggie sticks. Keeping snack serves to less than 600kJ is a great idea. Veggie sticks can get boring so change it up with bocconcini and cherry tomato sticks (use a toothpick to hold the balls together) or make colourful fruit sticks with seasonal berries and mango.

 Start with basil, layer the leaves on a plate in the shape of a doughnut. Then build the skewers by placing one bocconcini, one cherry tomato and one basil leaf onto each skewe. Layer the skewers on top of the basil doughnut. Garnish with basil pesto.  Photo and recipe courtesy of the Australian HFG

Start with basil, layer the leaves on a plate in the shape of a doughnut. Then build the skewers by placing one bocconcini, one cherry tomato and one basil leaf onto each skewe. Layer the skewers on top of the basil doughnut. Garnish with basil pesto. Photo and recipe courtesy of the Australian HFG

Here is a breakdown of some of the most loved Christmas treat foods. 

It might seem like you can't eat any delicious Christmassy treats but I would suggest choosing what you are most likely to enjoy, sit down and eat it mindfully. This is a great strategy to use to prevent mindless eating which leads to over-eating.

portion sizes at Christmas

Make healthy swaps

  • Swap three cheese platter > two cheese platter plus add colourful veggies sticks
  • Swap plain biscuits > multigrain or wholemeal
  • Swap high fat cheese > reduced fat or include a delicious dip (Pesto= Whiz fresh basil, parmesan, olive oil and pine nuts in the food processor; Tzatziki = Greek yoghurt, garlic crushed and chopped, mint and chopped cucumber - mix in a bowl)
  • Swap sausages > corn on the cob 
  • Swap chips > cherry tomato, bocconcini and basil skewers

Watch the alcohol

Alcohol can taste great but it is also a source of empty kilojoules, an appetite stimulant and depressant. It is best to keep the amount of alcohol down by following the guidelines of no more than 2 standard drinks on any one occasion (1 standard drink = 10g alcohol).

If weight is an issue or something you want to keep an eye on, it might be best to limit the alcohol altogether. Most people think food or the added soft drinks and mixers are a source of kilojoules although this is true 1g of alcohol is equivalent to 29kJ of energy. 

To put this into perspective:

  • 1 gram of carbohydrate = 17kJ
  • 1 gram of protein = 17kJ
  • 1 gram of fibre = 8kJ
  • 1 gram of fat = 37kJ

Here is a breakdown of what 1 standard drink might look like over Christmas:

     Adapted from Healthy Food Guide December 2016

    Adapted from Healthy Food Guide December 2016

    To beat over consuming alcohol this Christmas:

    • Go for water where possible
    • Make water special: mineral water plus lime is a great choice 
    • Enjoy each sip and drink slowly
    • Stay in control and say no top ups
    • Keep busy and help in the kitchen and during the clean-up
    • Go for half a nip instead of a full nip
    • When drinking beer, a light beer is better

    Keep active

    If you're not usually active Christmas it might just be the time to start. Any additional activity will help maintain weight over Christmas. During the festive season don't wait until the evening to exercise as this is when the festivities occur. Get up that little bit early and go for a walk or run. It is not only good for the body but also the mind. 

    On Christmas day:

    • Keep active and help set up the table or get in the kitchen and get cooking

    • Play with the younger kids - a good game of tag or Hide and Seek always gets the heart pumping

    • Stand and talk (away from the nibbles!)

    • After lunch head outside for a game of cricket or grab the whole family and venture down to the beach or park

     

    Instead of dieting over Christmas or in the new year, learn how to cook quick and easy meals that benefit you as an individual. Book a cooking consult with Be Well Fed to learn foods and way of eating is suited to you and your lifestyle – all the things a fad diet just won’t be able to achieve.