Christmas is known as the season to eat, drink, and be merry. And with so many amazing culinary delights on offer at this time of year, it’s no surprise that most of us put on a little weight or allow our healthy habits to slide during the festive season.
No matter your health goals, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy some of your favorite treats this Christmas. But what if you could make a few simple swaps to stay on track, fend off holiday weight gain, and feel better when January comes?
Here are a few of our top swaps to help you get started.
Swap Ham for Turkey
If you eat meat, the ham may be the centerpiece of your Christmas dinner. But you can immediately make your meal healthier by opting for the other traditional Christmas meat instead: turkey.
Ham is a processed meat, which comes with a number of health concerns. The World Health Organization has classed processed meat as carcinogenic to humans, meaning it is known to be a cause of cancer. Turkey is a lean meat, meaning it is low in fat as long as you remove the skin. It is also a great source of protein and rich in various nutrients including vitamins B6 and B12. Gram for gram, ham also has 39% more calories than turkey.
Swap Chips and Chocolate for Healthy Grazing Snacks
Whether you’ve got guests visiting or simply enjoy having something to nibble on before your big festive meal, a few chocolates or handfuls of potato chips can quickly add empty calories to your day.
Instead, consider swapping these fat-filled and sugar-laden treats for something healthier and equally delicious. Nuts are a great option; they are satisfying to eat and filled with nutrients and healthy fats (though they’re still high in calories, so be careful with your portion sizes if you’re watching your weight.)
Other healthy grazing snacks include cut up fruit, berries, vegetable sticks, olives, wholegrain crackers, and veggie dips such as hummus or tzatziki.
Swap Milk Chocolate for Dark Chocolate
Who doesn’t love some chocolates on Christmas Day? Most of us think of chocolate as an indulgent treat, but did you know that dark chocolate in moderation is actually good for you? According to Healthline, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, raises HDL (“good” cholesterol), and could even improve brain function and have a mild positive effect on blood pressure. It is also typically lower in sugar than milk chocolate.
Choose chocolate with a high cocoa content and a limited amount of added sugar for the maximum health benefits. Stir some into hot milk with a little cinnamon for a delicious and warming festive hot chocolate.
Swap Cocktails for Mocktails
Many of us enjoy a drink or two at Christmas, but between work Christmas parties, drinks with friends, and wine with dinner, it’s easy to overindulge. Cocktails can be delicious and festive, but they can also be high in sugar and calories as well as alcohol.
Too much alcohol can affect your sleep and your mood, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish, and too much sugar can cause the dreaded sugar crash that inevitably follows the high.
Why not swap some of your cocktails or glasses of wine for delicious mocktails? From “Grinch Punch”, which the kids will love, to alcohol-free twists on adult favorites like the Bellini, Woman’s Day has 18 merry mocktails for all tastes.
Swap Dinner Rolls for a Salad Starter
The typical Christmas dinner is filled with carb-heavy foods. Carbs are a vital nutrient, but it is possible to eat too many of them. The simple carbohydrates found in white bread can spike your blood sugar, causing your energy to crash soon after eating them. So why not skip the dinner rolls and enjoy a healthy and delicious salad before your meal instead?
Salads do not have to be boring! Load yours with fresh, crunchy veg, add some tasty toppings such as nuts or pomegranate seeds, and serve it with a heart-healthy olive oil-based dressing.
Swap Sausage Stuffing for Vegetarian Stuffing
For many people, the stuffing is one of the best parts of the holiday feast. Traditional stuffing is made with sausage meat or similar, making it very high in salt, fat, and carbs. Eating too much processed meat can also increase your risk of all kinds of health problems, from heart disease to bowel cancer.
You can enjoy a healthier stuffing by making your own vegetarian version using ingredients such as mushrooms, onions, chestnuts, lentils, rice, and spices.