5 Tips For A Healthier Christmas Feast

Indulge without the guilt by following these strategies.

By Sasha Gonzales        24 December 2021

The festive season is a time for eating and celebrating. Even if you don’t intend to visit many homes or attend every single party this year, you’ll probably still find yourself tucking into turkey, ham, icing-topped fruitcakes, buttery shortbread cookies, custard-laced puddings and other rich foods.

The good news is that you can enjoy all your favourite Christmas treats without feeling stuffed or guilty that you might have overeaten. Bonnie Rogers, Functional Habits Coach at The Nutrition Clinic, offers five tips for picking the healthiest foods, avoiding eating too much, and more.

1. Savour small amounts of what you enjoy

Festive meals can be wholesome if you load up on salad, roasted and steamed vegetables, lean meat and seafood, says Bonnie. Both the veggies and protein will fill you up without weighing you down, which is ideal if you’re going to be having more than one festive meal every day throughout the holiday season.

“But, be mindful of your sugar intake, since many traditional Christmas treats contain quite a lot of sugar,” Bonnie adds. “Enjoy these desserts in moderation, so don’t eat them at every meal. Eat what you love, but opt for quality over quantity, and savour every bite so you feel satisfied.”

2. Go easy on fried, sugary and processed foods

It’s easy to overeat anything that’s deep-fried or full of sugar, so Bonnie advises you to limit your intake of these foods. If a food is heavily processed and full of ingredients you can’t pronounce, you don’t want too much of it, either. She recommends sticking to “real” or “whole” food that’s minimally processed, because these tend to be healthier for you.

3. Create a healthy Christmas plate

“I always advise people to fill up on veggies first, followed by protein and then a small amount of everything else,” says Bonnie. “We typically build our plates in the opposite order, loading up on too many carbohydrate-rich foods and foods that lack nutrients. If your plate is full of veggies you won’t feel like you need a nap after the meal.”

According to Bonnie, half your plate should contain vegetables. Evenly divide the remaining half between protein and carbohydrates. Go for healthy carbohydrates like pumpkin and potatoes (without too much cheesy topping!) or grains like rice.

4. Avoid overeating

If you have to attend a few gatherings in one day and are expected to eat at them all, Bonnie offers these pointers to avoid eating more than you should:

  • Don’t arrive hungry. Have something light beforehand so you’re not ravenous by the time you sit down to eat.
  • Avoid the snacks. It’s hard to stop at just one potato chip, nut or cookie.
  • Give your food time to digest. Take small portions, eat slowly until you feel full, and only go back for seconds if you’re still hungry.

5. Choose alcoholic drinks wisely

“If you decide to drink, your best options are distilled spirits like vodka, gin and tequila, but in moderate amounts,” says Bonnie. “These aren’t as hard on your liver and kidneys compared to other types of alcohol. I’d mix them with soda, fresh lime, fresh herbs or fruit. Stay clear of typical high-sugar mixers like cola, fruit juices and tonic water. Beer is another beverage to be mindful of, because it can cause bloating, especially if you have a gluten sensitivity.”

Bonnie also recommends drinking a glass of water for every serving of alcohol that you consume and to drink another tall glass of water when you get home from a party. This may help prevent a hangover the next morning.

“And, if possible, take a dose of alpha lipoic acid before you start drinking,” she adds. “This is a powerful antioxidant that can assist your body with producing glutathione, which prevents cell damage. After drinking alcohol, I’d recommend taking liposomal glutathione, another antioxidant that can help to detoxify your liver. Remember to take this just before going to bed.” And of course, plan ahead for a designated driver if you’re imbibing.

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