It’s that time of the year again. The stockings are hung, the tinsel is on the tree and Dad has spent 3 hours getting the Christmas lights to look just right. I’ll admit one of my absolute favourite things about the festive season is the food, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. The trifle, the ham, the gingerbread, the cocktails, the rumballs. I put on a couple of kilos just thinking about it!
Swap It Don’t Stop It
No, I didn’t come up with the ‘swap it don’t stop it’ slogan all by myself. I’ve borrowed it from a Government campaign that encourages small healthy changes in daily life. The idea is that these small changes will add up to big health improvements. For example, swapping the morning transit from bus to bike or, lunch from fried food to fresh. The mantra resonates with me, especially over the Christmas period. It inspired me to brainstorm some healthy Christmas swaps you can make in order to enjoy this special time to its full extent, without coming out the other side too much heavier and unhealthier.
Rum Balls to Bliss Balls
Rum balls are a Christmas classic. Usually, choc-a-bloc with booze and butter, two ‘no no’s’ in the nutrition world. Like the campaign slogan says, that doesn’t mean we have to stop it. We just have to find a way to swap it. This year I’ll be making ‘Christmas bliss balls’, a healthier alternative. You can modify the recipes to create your own personal style of bliss ball that takes your fancy. Bliss balls are made primarily on nuts and dates. This means they are higher in healthy fats than the original rum balls. Furthermore, the sugar in them is natural which is always kinder to your body than the heavily processed white stuff. While this recipe doesn’t include the key ingredient, rum, you can think about adding a splash if you just can’t settle for a less boozy tasting ball (I don’t blame you). Adding alcohol to this recipe is still healthier than the original, and you won’t feel like you are missing out.
Usually stuffing is made with white bread crumbs which offer a lot of carbs and next to no nutritional value. These additional carbs can contribute additional calories to an already calorific day. I suggest trying a quinoa stuffing this year. Quinoa has been hailed a ‘super grain’ for its higher antioxidant and protein content. It therefore, makes a super stuffing. A quinoa stuffing doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice taste, there are some delicious quinoa stuffing recipes that I will certainly be giving a go this holiday season.
You Don’t Make Friends with Salad
Salads are sneaky. They are meant to be healthy, right? Well, not always. Salads taste better on Christmas. This is usually because they are drenched in high sugar and/or cream based dressings. Your classic potato salad can pack in a lot of calories, with little nutritional value. We need to be cautious of the seemingly safe salad. Try a sugar free dressing or swap out heavy cream dressings for natural yoghurt options. This will keep the waist line in check so you, and your body can enjoy Christmas.
Bon Bons, also known as Christmas Crackers are an absolute hoot around the Christmas dinner table. Kids and adults, alike enjoy the tug of war, followed by the iconic crack of gun powder. Sometimes, they contain little chocolates or lollies, as well as a party hat that everyone sports during the meal. In order to cut down on unnecessary additional food, but still keep in theme with Christmas spirit, purchase bon bons without a food item inside. Usually, there are plenty of options with games, toys and puzzles inside. These are fun, and don’t add extra calories. After all, who really needs a chocolate before sitting down for a huge Christmas meal?!
We all like to let our hair down on Christmas day. You’re on holidays, your family and friends are gathered and celebration is in the air. This is the perfect recipe for 2 (or 6) cocktails too many. While I am certainly not opposed to a beverage (or 6) on Christmas day, I believe we can make better choices about the type of alcohol we drink. Once again, you don’t have to stop the alcohol, just swap it. Cocktails for the girls and beer for the boys are Christmas classics. However, these are probably two of the worst types of alcohol we could choose. Cocktails are usually loaded with sugar and contain a higher amount of alcohol which contribute excessive calories. Beer contains large amounts of carbohydrate that you just don’t need on top of everything else. Therefore, I suggest a nice bottle of red to pair with your Christmas lunch. Red wine is, arguably, the healthiest alcohol because it contains the antioxidant resveratrol. In fact, one glass of red wine per day (and no more) is shown to be healthier than none at all! While I wouldn’t expect you to stick to just one glass on Christmas day, by choosing red wine (ideally one with a low alcohol content), we can make a small step towards a healthier Christmas. Meanwhile, still being a part of the celebrations. If you’re really into Christmas cocktails, try a healthier red wine sangria cocktail.
Try not to spend the whole day inside sitting around the table with a drink in hand and a food platter spread before you. Make an active effort to get active! Take your family to the beach for the morning, or the dog for a walk. Maybe even get a game of backyard cricket going or organise a treasure hunt for the little ones. These small changes to Christmas day traditions contribute to few more burned calories and a lesser burden on your health. If you want to be crafty about it, gift your family a cricket/badminton/volleyball set on the day to encourage some outdoor movement.
An Attitude Adjustment
Food isn’t the only thing we need to think about swapping on Christmas day. It’s important we swap our mind sets too. There is no need to feel guilt or shame about having one day of indulgent celebrations with your friends and family after a long year of hard work. Christmas is the perfect occasion to let go a little, while still having a grip. Feeling guilty about your diet on Christmas robs the fun of it and that’s the whole point of indulgence. Enjoy the moment on the lips, and don’t worry about the hips.
Renae Earle is a Masters of Dietetics student at the University of Queensland. Having achieved her Bachelor of Exercise and Nutrition Science with distinction, she is motivated to complete her studies and become an accredited practicing dietitian.
Renae is passionate about evidence-based practice and debunking nutrition myths. She believes that in today’s fad celebrity diet culture, it is increasingly important to deliver the facts. She aims to help people achieve a sustainable and healthful lifestyle by combating the flurry of misinformation offered by tabloids and social media.
In order to achieve this goal, Renae has dedicated herself to the field of nutrition. She is well educated on a wide range of nutrition topics such as supplementation, chronic disease, restrictive diets and metabolism.
Renae has a keen interest in offering personalised nutrition plans that suit the specific needs of her future clients.