Sharing a Christmas meal with family and friends is a wonderful way to celebrate the festive season, but it doesn’t have to mean over-indulgence. Here are some tips for making your main Christmas meal a healthier one.
Celebrating Christmas can feel like a moveable feast which starts on Christmas Eve and finishes up around Boxing Day. Most people gather for one main meal together, so here’s a few ways to make it a bit healthier:
Give yourself a head start
Tradition may dictate chocolate almonds for breakfast (in some households anyway!), but you’ll be less likely to over-indulge if you’re not too hungry before lunch or dinner. And feeling full will make you less likely to graze if you’re helping to prepare the main meal. Try a toasted bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese, with a side serve of fresh-cut mango for breakfast.
Save the chocolate coins and truffles for after everyone has eaten — processed sugar can send blood sugar racing and reduces appetites. Make sure you and your guests have easy access to bowls of nuts, like almonds or pistachios. They’re packed with healthy fats which will please anyone who is peckish. Carrot sticks or sliced capsicum will deliver a healthy crunch, and a big bowl of cherries will satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth.
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A healthy start
Choose an entrée which features fresh Aussie seafood — everyone will get a protein hit that will help them pace the rest of the meal. Keep it simple with cooked prawns and put thousand-island dressing in a side bowl so everyone can choose how much they add. Or make Vietnamese rice-paper rolls filled with vegetables and prawns. They’re fun to make, easy to eat and add an extra serve of vegetables into the meal.
Sticking to traditions
Serving a roast as the main course is a great way to include some traditional Christmas food in the meal. Serve a roast, but choose a lean meat like chicken or turkey instead of beef or lamb. Add lots of vegetables — it means you can buy a smaller roast and will give more choice to any vegetarians at the table. Add traditional red, white and green by thinking beyond traditional roast potatoes, carrots and peas, to super salads made of beetroot, spinach and fetta or pomegranate, kale and macadamias.
Finish with a light dessert like a trifle, summer berry pudding or a pavlova. You could invite your guests to bring a dessert. It means they’ll get to share food they enjoy, and will be guaranteed to have something that they know fits in with their dietary needs. Vegan desserts can include healthier alternatives to full-fat dairy or processed sugar and be a creative approach to traditional favourites. Add health and colour to the table with a beautifully-prepared platter of Australian summer fruits like strawberries, rockmelon and plums.
Toasting in style
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a cold glass of bubbles to celebrate, but too much of a good thing can send everyone off for naps after lunch or give the gift of a Boxing Day hangover. Offer soft drinks and mixers so there’s an alternative to alcoholic drinks. Turn boring ice-cubes festive by adding frozen raspberries or mint leaves into ice cube trays before filling them with water and freezing.
It’s always tempting, after a large Christmas lunch, to dive straight into the family-size box of chocolates that is inevitably lurking around the house, and treat yourself to a job well done dozen. Try to control your sugary urges and limit yourself to a few. If you don’t have great self-control, enrol a family member to distribute the lollies and safeguard the rest of them so gluttony can’t take over!