Which of your favourite Christmas foods make the health grade?
From ham to turkey, mince pies and cheese platters, here’s your expert guide to the healthiness of your festive plate.
One of the highlights of Christmas is often being able to indulge and enjoy a feast.
While it’s still important to make smart and healthy choices, it’s also a time to enjoy yourself – so being able to navigate your way through every silly season spread is key.
“The most important thing to remember when indulging in the ‘not so healthy foods’ is to be mindful and present so you can truly enjoy it. Do not beat yourself up, and pick up your wellbeing habits at the next meal,” says nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge.
Experts rate the healthiness – or otherwise – of festive food favourites:
Feel free to throw another prawn on the barbecue on Christmas Day.
Dietitian and nutritionist Alice Bleathman says: “(Prawns are) low in calories, high in protein, omega-3s, vitamin E and rich in calcium. Serve them fresh and eat them without dips and drizzle with lemon instead.”
Alice says while roast potatoes are very filling and high in fibre, vitamin C and A and potassium “they can be quite high in fat and sodium depending on how they are cooked”.
One way to make them healthier is to cook them with an air fryer instead of roasting with oil, and using herbs and spices such as garlic, rosemary and chilli to add flavour.
Turkey is a winner in the health stakes, says Michele.
“It has high protein richness, delivering over 30g of protein in one small portion, not to mention how delicious it is. A high-protein meal like this can keep our post-meal insulin levels in a healthy range,” says Michele, founder of A Healthy View and author of Eat, Drink and Still Shrink.
“Pork is a good source of nutrients as well as a high-quality protein. (It) is an excellent source of thiamine, zinc, B12, B6, niacin, and iron,” says Michele.
And if you want to keep it lean, Alice suggests avoiding crackling, which can be high in fat.
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While a glazed ham can be a good source of protein, it can also be high in fat, sodium and sugar.
Alice says to give it a healthier spin, consider using a fruit-based glaze and try to stick to a serving of two to three thin slices.
Choose wisely what you consume from a cheese board. Michele says cheese itself is high in protein and calcium, but it’s the extras that you should be smart about.
“(Choose) more cheese than cracker and avoid the dried fruit which is high in natural sugar,” she says.
While they contain fruit, generally mince pies can be high in fat due to the pastry used, and also high in sugar and calories, says Alice.
“They can be quite moreish and easy to overconsume,” she says.
Aim to keep it to one pie and if you can, skip the cream or ice cream.
Michele says the egg whites used in a pav are high in protein, while the berries on top contain vitamin C.
“Make mini portion-controlled pavlovas instead of a large one and serve with a good amount of fruit. Instead of using cream in the pavlova recipe try using Greek yoghurt,” says Alice.
Traditional Christmas pudding can be high in sugar due to the dried fruit, or the cream or ice cream that’s generally served with it, says Alice.
For a healthier version, use wholemeal or high-fibre flours.
They’re bite-sized balls of tastiness but forget about the nutrition factor.
“A traditional rum ball tastes like a sugary biscuit with chocolate and rum. No, they are not healthy, but they are fun. If you indulge, have one and step away from the pretty glass bowl that holds 20 of them,” says Michele.
Try these Christmas treats:
Written by Tania Gomez.