There’s something about the holidays that makes us want to indulge a little, and rightly so. It’s a time for fun, frivolity and enjoying quality time good friends and good food.
However, between holiday parties, Christmas lunch or dinner and New Year’s Eve, it can be an effort not to gain weight over the last weeks of December. In fact, the average person gains about 0.8-1.5 kilograms over the Christmas period, according to Nutrition Australia.
It’s fine to indulge every now and then, but if you’re trying hard not to blow out between now and the New Year, Starts at 60 chatted with nutritionist Jess Blair to find out which festive foods to enjoy in moderation if you’re watching your waistline this Christmas.
Mince pies are a Christmas staple and for many people no festive holiday is complete without one warmed up and drenched in custard. However, they’re unsurprisingly very high in fat, sugar and calories. The mince itself is made from a mix of dried and fresh fruit, sugar and nuts, while the pastry typically consists of flour, butter, sugar and egg yolk. The mince pies alone contain about 255 calories and once you add a dollop of custard or ice cream that count goes even higher. To put it into perspective, it would take you about an hour’s worth of non-stop vacuuming to burn off that one mince pie. So think twice before indulging in an entire box!
Nothing compares to a tender roast smothered in flavoursome gravy. But if you’re trying to loose weight, you might want to think twice before you ladle it onto your plate. Most gravy is made with pan drippings from the meat you just roasted, which is full of undeniably delicious fat and salt. And homemade gravy is often thickened by adding white flour or cornstarch, which adds carbohydrates and sugar to the recipe. In fact, one serving of a standard gravy recipe (stock, flour, water, butter and pan drippings) contains about 45 calories, without the added potatoes or pork crackling. If you want to make gravy for Christmas Day, avoid recipes that call for cream or butter.
Christmas pudding is a classic festive dessert and for many people it’s a non-negotiable item on the menu. However, with nuts, dried fruit, brandy, sugar and butter in the mixture, they’re no healthy treat, and once you add in the custard or ice-cream you’re talking about a lot of calories. The pudding alone contains about 290 calories per serving and once you add a dollop of custard or brandy butter that count goes even higher. Even a small Christmas pudding requires nearly two hours of running to burn off the fat and sugar inside. If you’re treating yourself to a slice of Christmas pudding this year, Jess suggest serving it with a light version of the usual ice cream or custard.
It may be fun to craft with the grandkids, but if you’re watching your waistline you’d best limit how much you indulge in this year. Gingerbread itself contains significant amounts of sugar, flour, butter and syrup, and once you top with chocolate, lollies and icing sugar, the final product might shock you. In fact, a typical gingerbread house contains about 5,000 calories and it would take about five hours of non-stop walking to burn off the calories from the sugary creation.
Dinner rolls are a nice addition to Christmas lunch or dinner. They can be slathered in butter, used to mop up tasty gravy, or used for sandwich-style eating. But loading up on a few too many at dinner isn’t super healthy — white flour is low GI and butter is packed with saturated fat. One small bread roll contains about 300 calories and once you add a generous layer of butter that count goes even higher. For an alternative, you could switch to whole grain bread and skip the butter all together.
Mashed potato is the quintessential comfort food — creamy, buttery and so delicious. But its also usually loaded up with a lot of milk and butter. Although potatoes eaten alone aren’t bad for you, it’s the way people prepare potatoes that ruins its reputation, including buttery mash. In fact, one serving of mashed potato contains about 90 calories.
If you’re looking to lighten up this classic comfort food, there are plenty of alternatives out there which are way more healthy and creamy cauliflower mash is a great alternative! To make cauliflower mash simply cook the cauliflower for 12 to 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain all of the water (the drier that cauliflower is, the bette) and add a hint of butter and mash until it looks like mashed potatoes — it’s that easy!
If you’re trying hard not to over indulge this holiday season, Jess has shared her top tips for healthy choices at Christmas: