24 December 2017

7 Christmas foods you should go easy on

Go ahead and enjoy the festive season – but bear in mind that some treats are better consumed in moderation.

Looking forward to all those festive treats? Hold your horses – come January, you may be regretting all those extra kilograms.

Although we don't want to interfere with what you eat over Christmas, we did look at a number of unhealthy options you might do better to scale down on.

1. Turkey stuffing

Why? Turkey might not be the traditional South African Christmas meal, but it’s still a popular choice for some families – and can pack on the kilojoules very quickly. Turkey is often stuffed with a savoury filling made from sausage meat, usually pork sausage. Sausage is heavily processed and contains high amounts of saturated fat that increases your risk for heart disease.

What to choose instead: A healthier stuffing made from mushrooms, breadcrumbs and herbs.

2. Creamy salads and sides

Why? Since South Africans don’t celebrate a snowy Christmas, we tend to eat a lot of salads – but contrary to popular belief, salads are not always the healthiest option. Think of those creamy potato and pasta salads laden with mayonnaise – this can easily add unwanted kilojoules to your meal.

What to choose instead: Be mindful of your sides – enjoy the starchy options in moderation and load the rest of your plate with green vegetables and a green salad. You can also lighten up your potato salad by replacing the mayonnaise with plain low-fat yogurt.

potato salad

3. Glazed ham

Why? Ham is not your best source of protein since it is high in saturated fats, which contributes to higher cholesterol levels. Store-bought glazed ham often contains nitrates to preserve the meat, which can be harmful if consumed in large quantities.

What to choose instead: Glaze your own ham from scratch to limit the amount of preservatives and sugar in store-bought ham. Choose leaner, low-fat protein sources such as chicken.

glazed ham

4. Sausage rolls and processed meats

Why? Ah, those snack platters are death traps for many a person with good intentions. Whether you are at a year-end function or a family Christmas dinner, chances are you might be tempted by the pastries, cocktail sausages and deli meat slices. But once again, these foods are heavily processed and laden with kilojoules and sodium.

What to choose instead: Make a healthier, lighter snack platter with leaner deli meat cuts such as smoked chicken and turkey and vegetable crudités with hummus and low-fat yogurt dips.

cocktail sausage rolls

5. Potato chips

Why? When it comes to unhealthy foods with a high salt content, potato chips are the one of the biggest culprits. Not only is this snack full of empty nutrients, but will also leave you feeling bloated and sluggish before you even touch your main course.

What to choose instead: Munch on air-popped popcorn or vegetable crudités dipped in hummus to tide you over until Christmas lunch is served.

potato chips

6. Fruit cake

Why? Okay, you're probably fuming at this point – telling you to avoid fruit cake over Christmas. How dare we? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news – although this Christmas treat contains fruit, it’s dense with butter, sugar and liquor and packs 1 715 kilojoules in a single slice.

What to choose instead: There are two types of people – those who despise fruit cake and those who love it. Fruit cake is a unique Christmas treat, but enjoy it in moderation. Scale down on the other dessert options and savour your slice of cake, but resist the temptation to pile on the custard, ice-cream or cream.

fruit cake

7. Chocolates and sweets

Why? For many of us, a big box or bag of chocolates, wrapped in colourful shiny wrappers truly marks the beginning of the festive season. But go easy on these – you can easily lose control of your intake and end up eating more than you should. These can add on the kilojoules, especially if you have just indulged in a big meal. Also take note of the amounts of sugar and corn syrup contained in these treats.

What to choose instead: Instead of mindlessly snacking on chocolates, choose a lighter sweet option such as fresh fruit and a dollop of cream or yogurt, or some sorbet. Limit your chocolates to one or two – pick your favourite flavour and savour it, bite by bite. You can also opt for dark chocolate, which contains a lot of of antioxidants.

chocolate wrappers

More tips for a healthier Christmas:

  • Watch your alcohol intake as your glass of champagne or favourite tipple can also add unnecessary kilojoules. The alcohol can loosen your inhibitions, causing you to snack even more.
  • Pick those foods you truly love and enjoy, and give the rest a miss.
  • Don’t obsess over weight and kilojoules. Eat mindfully and savour the tastes.
  • Don’t starve yourself on Boxing Day. Skipping meals will not help.
  • Get some exercise. You don't have to hit the gym, but have fun with your family. Go for a walk on the beach or park, or play a game of frisbee.

Image credits: iStock


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