We all do our best to eat healthy most of the year, but when Christmas feasting beckons, it can be hard to stick to your usual “eat clean” routine. Ahead of the holidays, we caught up with Hong Kong nutritionist Chrissy Denton for her top tips on how to eat healthy at Christmas dinner, and fight that festive bloat.
What’s the one mistake most healthy eaters make that sets them back come January?
Portion control! Before loading up your plate, scan the table and decide what you really need. To help with that, try choosing a smaller plate or bowl so you avoid piling the plate up high; studies show an average of 30 percent less food consumption this way.
What are some easy food substitutions we can make?
Rather than load up on high-calorie foods every chance that we get, there are some simple swaps we can make that won’t leave us feeling deprived. Try swapping:
Creamy dips for: homemade guacamole
Mashed potatoes for: roasted herbed sweet potatoes
Traditional stuffing for: homemade stuffing with apple, oats and hazelnuts
Canapes like chips, sausage rolls, and rich cheeses for: a platter of veggie sticks, hummus, berries and raw nuts
Christmas pudding with custard and cream for: homemade fruit crumble with Greek or coconut yoghurt and dark chocolate dipped strawberries
Your three best tips to stop from overeating?
1. Eat normally throughout the day! When we deprive ourselves of meals or food during the daytime we often play catch up or overeat at night. Try to eat normally and have an afternoon snack before dinner.
2. Pace yourself! It takes around 20 minutes for the brain to tell the body you’re full. Most of us tend to inhale our food and move onto the next course or beverage. Try to chew your food 20-30 times before swallowing, put your fork down between bites, and sit down at the table to really focus on what you’re doing. Christmas is all about celebrating with family and friends so enjoy the moment!
3. Skip the seconds. One of the highlights of Christmas is the leftovers the next day, right? So try to resist the temptation of going back for seconds… or thirds or fourths, for that matter. Your future self will thank you when you’ve got turkey sandwiches for days!
What’s the best way to prevent or fix bloating?
Bloating can be due to a number of reasons. Some common reasons include eating too fast or on the go, stress, consuming too much caffeine, or something as simple as not chewing your food properly. Sit down and enjoy your meal mindfully – without any distractions or devices – to ensure you’re chewing your food enough and not overdoing it. Remember to drink between meals; water and other liquids help dilute our stomach acid, which can disrupt the body’s ability to break down food (i.e. bloating). Taking some natural digestive aids like lemon juice and water or apple cider vinegar before a meal can also help stimulate our digestive enzymes and help relieve symptoms of indigestion or bloating.
What are some foods that we should be eating lots of over the festive season?
Remember to load up on veggies! If you’re hosting a dinner, try to include a rainbow of different vegetable options for your guests. Embrace seasonal produce with leafy green salads, roast pumpkin, sweet potato mash (without the cheese), asparagus, beetroot and pomegranates. Some of my favourite snack options are:
- cucumber, celery and carrot sticks with hummus or fresh salsa
- homemade guacamole & rice crackers
- oven-baked pita chips
- fruit kebabs (festive berries & cherries)
- vegetable and Christmas ham mini quiches
- mixed raw nuts & dried cranberries
Check out more healthy recipe ideas for the holiday season in our Recipe section.
Can we really not have any stuffing, mince pies, sausage rolls without being totally unhealthy and indulgent?! Have a heart, it’s Christmas!
Of course, it IS Christmas, so we do want to include a few treats on the day! Try to use the 80:20 rule: 80 percent of the time, choose whole, real, nutritious foods and 20 percent of the time choose for pleasure. When you do indulge, homemade dishes are always a better option.
CHRISSY DENTON is a Hong Kong-based nutritionist and NASM-certified personal trainer. Get more nutritional tips from her health and wellness blog at chrissydentonhealthfitness.com.