Christmas Dinner Delights

30 November 2011

Christmas dinner delightsYou know the feeling: you've had a great time over Christmas but are lethargic, you've overdone it (again!) and you feel guilty. No surprises then that we seem to gain weight during the festive season.

The good news is it doesn't have to be so. If you plan ahead, you can have tasty nibbles around the house that won't go straight to your waistline.

Even traditional Christmas fare can be tempered – it doesn't need to be laden with fat and overflowing with calories.

The important thing to remember about Christmas eating is to forget about the 'all or nothing' approach. Trying to lose weight during the holidays is likely to be a self-defeating goal.
Instead, strive to maintain your weight. Depriving yourself of festive foods or feeling guilty when you do enjoy them isn't part of a healthy eating strategy.

Instead, balance party eating by choosing lower-calorie foods at other times of the day.
If you do treat yourself to the odd high-calorie food that you can't resist, eat a small portion, eat it slowly – and enjoy every bite! 

What's in a Christmas dinner?

The traditional Christmas day meal is packed with hidden benefits. Scan this list for the low-down:

  1. Smoked salmon. This tasty treat provides only 80 calories per portion and is a good source of protein and the health-promoting omega-3 fats. Ideal as a starter.
  2. Roast turkey. Rich in protein and low in fat, especially if you discard the skin and choose light-coloured meat – only 150 kilocalories in an average portion.
  3. Potatoes. A delicious source of vitamin C and other nutrients. If roasting, use vegetable oil or spray oil rather than lard to cut saturated fat. Keep the skins on if you want added fibre. If you cut them larger, they'll absorb less fat.
  4. Brussels sprouts. An average serving (9 sprouts) provides half of your daily needs for folic acid and all the vitamin C you need.
  5. Carrots. Rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. This and the other carotenoids act as potentially disease-beating antioxidants. Serve them steamed or boiled, or as crudités before the main course.
  6. Peas. Popular with kids and a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin E, fibre, folic acid and most other B vitamins. Steam them in the minimum amount of water using a tight-fitting lid.
  7. Christmas pudding. The dried fruit provides plenty of potassium, and it's a reasonable provider of iron and fibre. If you're making your own, you may not even need to add sugar as there's plenty of sweetness in the dried fruit.
  8. Custard. A comforting and low-fat alternative to brandy butter, and a good source of calcium, too. Choose skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
  9. Satsumas. Each of these handy stocking fillers provides half your daily needs for vitamin C. Try some in between meals when you feel peckish.
  10. Chestnuts. The only low-fat nut in existence and great for roasting by the fireside.

When it's all over and you think about your New Year's Resolution, don't include 'give up', 'never eat' and other negative decisions. Instead, make positive resolutions that you can keep: learn to choose healthier food options, go for smaller portions, make a positive resolution to have five portions of fruit and veg a day, and include more physical activity in your daily routine.

For some fantastic healthy alternatives to the traditional dinner please see the following recipes: 

Pan-fried turkey steaks in creamy mushroom sauce
Bulgur wheat with cranberries and toasted almonds
Slow-roasted winter vegetables
Sweet chilli salmon with buttered spinach  


Azmina Govindji RD
Consultant Nutritionist and Registered Dietician