'Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry...and complain about eating too much rich food, weight gain and how to lose the kilos again in the new year.
But here's the thing...Christmas doesn't have to be a health trap! It is so easy to tweak things to ensure a healthy and happy Christmas day that involves no comments about "naughty food" and weight gain.
Especially if you are in the midst of a scorching Aussie summer! (I know...I'm getting in late since Christmas day has already happened...but keep these steps in mind for next year!)
1) Start the day right. Have a healthy, protein packed breakfast - eggs, baked beans, tomatoes, onion and mushroom with toast, and maybe a little bacon - because it is Christmas after all! Have a rule that no presents get opened before breakfast, still the most important meal of the day!
2) Don't start drinking and snacking immediately after breakfast. Stick to water for the morning drinks and don't put any snacks out until after lunch. If you have followed step one, this is so much easier.
Our yummy Christmas ham - cooked the day before, fat removed, portion controlled.
3) Lunch. This is where everyone seems to go overboard - or at least where they think they do. This year we had a "no cooking on Christmas Day" rule and everyone was responsible for bringing a few dishes - which was GREAT! Our serving table definitely groaned under the weight of so much food. But is this really a health problem? Lunch was all put out once we were ready to eat and because no-one was cooking there was nothing on the kitchen bench to pick at throughout the morning. And we served up some beautiful, healthy food!
We had salads - green salad, rice salad, pasta salad (non creamy), potato salad (made with yoghurt and a bit of cream rather than mayo) and coleslaw with some boiled eggs and beetroot on the side. Everyone's plates were at least three quarters covered in salad.
The table groaned under the weight of....SALAD!
Then there was the meat: A baked ham (very easy to pull the fat off!); roasted lamb (also easy to pull the fat off!) and a turkey rolled roast. Everyone took one slice of each - or maybe 2 slices of their favourite (it is Christmas after all!).
Once everyone had eaten (and I didn't notice anyone going back for seconds!) all the food was packed back into the fridge under the assumption that if anyone was hungry later they could grab some out. What a novel idea to only eat when hungry!
Non alcoholic punch is pretty and tasty!
4) Drinks. I won't lie - this one is always tricky. Because there really is nothing healthy about drinking all afternoon and no real way to make it healthier. My best advice - ENJOY! Wait until during/after lunch, drink something that you love (I had a bottle of fancy elderflower sparkling wine) and make sure that you drink plenty of water. We also had a beautiful non-alcoholic punch with heaps of fruit in it for people to use as an alternative or to mix with their wine.
5) Dessert/sweets. This doesn't NEED to be served straight after lunch. If people have eaten enough of the healthy lunch offerings they may not feel like dessert straight away - so don't rush to serve it up! You also don't need half a dozen different things. Our dessert table (which was served when people started getting peckish at about 4pm!) had a homemade pavlova covered in strawberries and kiwifruit, and a fruit bowl. The leftover pavlova was put away as soon as everyone had eaten and the fruit bowl was left out so that if anyone wanted to graze they had something healthy right there to pick at.
My amazing fruit bowl
6) Dinner. By the time dinner came around everyone was too tired and distracted to really think much about eating. It was really a bit of an anti-climax! It was a late meal but we had a bit of seafood and nibbles.
7) Which brings us to the issue of nibbles. People always seem to talk about having bowls of lollies, chips, chocolate coated nuts and various other nibbles just sitting there on the table all day long. I'm surprised to say that this year there was not a single lolly or chip to be found on the table! And no chocolate came out to the table either. When nibbles were served it was carrot and celery sticks, pickled onions, pistachios, a bit of salami, cheese and rice crackers and dip.
No-one complained about the lack of lollies and chocolate!
Sounds like a lot of food - but as with every day eating portion control is vital. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This is not the only day where you are allowed to eat turkey and ham so there is no need to eat as though you'll never see these foods again!
As an extra point - in between all this food we found time for a little physical activity. Everyone had a swim or helped the littlies with their active toys - bikes and ride on trucks and tee-ball and a few games of chase made sure no-one was sitting around too much.
Helping the little ones playing with their new toys is active and fun
All it takes is a little pre-planning to make the day a little healthier and as a bonus no-one was stuck in the kitchen all day! And stop the complaining about rich food and weight gain - either bring some healthy options and don't eat the unhealthy ones, control your portions or just remember that it is Christmas after all and is just one day!