Christmas is a celebration, and one thing most celebrations have in common is food – and lots of it. But we need to watch what we’re consuming. Feature writer Kaelanne Jordan speaks with a dietician on what does a healthy/balanced Christmas plate look like.
A healthy Christmas? Yes, it is possible, says registered dietician Kimberly Suraj.
Suraj told Catholic News that the traditional Christmas menu dish “isn’t the problem really” as the real issue lies with the method of preparation of these traditional meals, as well as the use of some unhealthy ingredients.
A “healthy eating” plate, even during the Christmas season should include healthy oils (like olive and canola oil) for cooking, vegetables—potatoes and French fries don’t count—fruits of all colours, whole grains, protein and water, regardless of the occasion.
To avoid overconsumption of food, Suraj recommends persons make half their plate vegetables and fruit and a quarter of the plate with whole grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta.
“The fibre in whole grains in small quantities slows the effect of how quickly sugar reaches your blood and prevents your blood sugar from spiking,” she told Catholic News.
Protein should make up the other quarter of your plate: poultry, fish, beans, nuts are all sources of protein that can be added to vegetables or salad.
Red meats such as beef, lamb, goat, and the Christmas ham should be limited, or leaner cuts and pieces selected. Avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausages because of their high fat and sodium content.
As a dietician, Suraj observed that some common health related issues during and after Christmas are persons becoming overweight or obese. High blood sugar or out of control blood sugars and blood pressure are commonly seen, as well as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Eat slow and enjoy
For diabetics and persons with other health-related issues, Suraj asserts that they should try to maintain the same eating routine. During the holiday season, there are a lot of shopping and activities to attend, but “try to keep to your eating schedule, don’t skip meals”, she said. Stick to eating the three main meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two healthy snacks daily, like fruit.
With the assortment of food available during the Christmas time, it’s easy to give into the urge to eat your way through the holiday season. However, Suraj warns “eat slowly”. It takes your brain and body 20 minutes to register that you are full. “Eat meals at a slower pace and chances are you’ll be satisfied with a smaller portion” she said. “Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.”
Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do need to have some ponche de crème, or the traditional Christmas rum punch, have it with food. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with diabetes medicines.
For diabetics, if you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs such as rice, potatoes and bread during the meal.
Suraj observed that usually at Christmas, paime, black cake and other cakes and sweets are consumed. She advised that family members use either less sugars or swap unhealthy ingredients for healthier options.
For example, if a recipe calls for oil in cake, it can be substituted with applesauce or yogurt. Alternative dessert items can also be used, like fresh/dried or frozen fruit in small portions or yogurts, nuts, seeds, sugar free puddings and gelatins.
Diabetics and hypertensive persons should test their blood sugar and blood pressure regularly. Hypertensive persons should avoid using ham, cured, processed, salted foods, as well as seasonings with the ingredient Sodium or Monosodium glutamate (MSG), having too much barbeque sauces, soy sauce, salted snacks, pigtail, energy drinks and drinks high in caffeine.
She recommends persons use fresh green seasoning or salt free seasonings in making pastelles and other food items. Bon Appétit!