Whatever end of year celebrations mean to you, religious or otherwise, Father Christmas, stacks of parties or just a jolly holiday with bells on, the spirit of giving and well wishing prevails. Seasonal wellbeing, the antithesis of humbug, includes festive feasting...
The happy tidings are that we can have our Christmas cake and eat it – just don’t ‘overeat’ it. Forget about counting calories, a better measure of ‘enough’ is to recognise when we’re no longer hungry, and stop. Don’t pile food high on the plate, eat slowly, savour the flavours and socialise. By the time our zips and belts feel tight it’s too late.
For party snacks think along the lines of pita bread, vegetable sticks, tomato- or yogurt-based dips, olives and sushi or sashimi. Around the house, bowls of unsalted nuts and mixes of berries or dried and fresh fruits – figs, dates, grapes, pomegranates, clementines – are decorative and healthy. That’s to say, veer towards low-salt, low-sugar, vitamin-rich vittles to nibble festively and with impunity.
And bring on the soup – a head to toe warmer in deep midwinter. Up everyone’s five-a-day and hydrate them, too, with mixed vegetable concoctions flavoured with spices and herbs in place of salt. Soups are great for using up leftovers and they can be hearty or classy or both, from chunky broths to crystal-clear consommés.
Tradition dictates that Christmas dinner should look and feel like a feast of plenty, quite right, the more flavour, colour and variety the better. Our table can groan but our diners needn’t. Turkey is healthily lean protein, as is a red meat alternative, venison, or ring the changes and lighten the digestive load with poached or baked omega-3-rich wild salmon. Skin-on and roasted turkey has more fat, but it’s Christmas Day so go for it, just stick to a sensibly sized portion.
Don't forget those veggies!
Ditto goes for roast potatoes (a couple is enough) alongside just a daub of mash made with yoghurt. Beautify the table with a colourful array of vegetables such as red cabbage and apple, sprouts with chestnuts, cavolo nero kale with nutmeg, etc. Steam your vegetables to retain maximum crunch and nutrients.
Pudding? Alongside richer pourings, provide yogurt with puddings and offer fresh fruit, spiced fruit compote, poached pears, etc as a lighter alternative.
Cake? Yes, a sliver.
Chocolate? Dark chocolate has much less sugar and more wake-up caffeine than milk or white.
Alcohol? Yes, but don’t let it spoil your day.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan