In the midst of summer and bikini season, a week (or more!) of feasting may be the last thing you need. With the lure of Christmas puddings and an abundance of buffet-style grazing, adults will gain approximately half a kilogram on average over the Christmas period. If you plan to cater an event this year, use these healthy substitutions for your favourite Christmas classics and keep yourself in shape for the beach!
Sub out: Water crackers with pate and oil based dips
Sub in: Wholemeal pita crisps and chopped veggies with tzatziki, salsa or homemade dips
Let’s face it – no one sticks with the recommended 20g serve when it comes to dips and pate. And with 30-50% fat, these condiments can pack a calorie punch even before the mains and desserts arrive.
Yoghurt-based dips, such as tzatziki, and tomato-based salsas, offer a much lighter alternative and contain less than 10% fat. If you love dip varieties that are oil-based, such as hummus, try making them yourself at home – chances are you will use a lot less oil than commercial brands.
A good tip for reducing the fat content of a homemade dip is to swap 1/3-1/2 of the recommended oil content with water – trust us, it still works!
The ‘vehicle’ for the dip is also important. Water crackers contain highly refined carbohydrates and very little nutritional value, so swap them for low GI homemade pita crisps and vitamin-packed veggie sticks.
Sub out: Traditional prawn cocktail
Sub in: Summer prawn, avocado and mango lettuce cups
Prawns are a real treat and are great to offer your guests as a light entrée on special occasions. However, traditional prawn cocktail recipes for Christmas focus heavily on calorie-rich mayonnaise and sugary sauces like ketchup.
Don’t panic – you can keep the prawns as a highlight, but just try serving them in a healthier (and more modern) way. A summer-inspired entrée of prawns with diced avocado, tomato, cucumber and mango arranged in fresh cos lettuce leaves, with a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Sub out: Roast ham
Sub in: Roast turkey
If you have high blood pressure, or are prone to fluid retention, beware of the Christmas ham! At 1200mg sodium per 100g, roasted ham has over 100% more salt than turkey.
If you’ve never attempted a roast turkey before, it’s just like roasting a large chicken. Ask your supplier for guidance with regards to cooking time, but as a guide, Jamie Oliver recommends to weigh the turkey and allow 20 minutes of cooking time per 500g.
For a festive flair, search for a stuffing recipe that contains dried fruits, nuts and fresh herbs.
Sub out: Snags and steaks on the barbeque
Sub in: Fish and seafood on the barbeque
Last year, the World Health Organisation published research linking higher intakes of sausage meats and red meat with colorectal cancer (3). Unfortunately, this research also showed that our great Aussie tradition of barbequing meats increases the health risk by triggering the production of harmful ‘carcinogens’, including heterocyclic amines, nitrates and advanced glycated end products (AGEs).
The good news is fish and seafood, particularly oily varieties such as salmon, contain beneficial antioxidants and nutrients such as omega-3s that protect our bodies against cancer and other diseases. And, barbequing them does not produce carcinogens, so you can still enjoy the tradition!
Sub out: Pavlova with cream
Sub in: Eton mess with yoghurt and berries
The great Aussie Pav might seem like a ‘light’ dessert when compared to a Christmas fruit pudding, however it can deliver a whole meal worth of calories in a single slice, particularly if it is topped with a sweet whipped cream.
Keep the spirit of this dessert, but reduce the fat and sugar content by creating a healthy Eton Mess. In individual glasses or a large glass bowl, layer crushed meringue (homemade or store-bought), Greek yoghurt swirled with honey or jam and fresh seasonal fruits such as nectarines, cherries, and berries.
In the spirit of Christmas, you might like to try soaking your fruit in brandy or Cointreau for an hour or overnight in the fridge.
Sub out: Fruit mince tarts
Sub in: Scones with brandy-soaked dried fruit
Boozy dried fruit and Christmas go hand in hand, but if you are watching your waistline over the summer period, you might need to look beyond the traditional fruit mince pies to get your fix.
A basic scone contains far less butter than pastry shells and can be an excellent vehicle for your brandy soaked raisins, currents, dried apricots and mixed peel. Simply add your soaked fruits to a traditional scone dough, mix it through, and bake as per recipe.