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Feast with care for a healthier Christmas season

Healthier food choices and smaller portions can help to keep weight gain at bay while allowing you to enjoy the year-end festivities with loved ones

Timothy Goh on 23 Dec 2019

The Straits Times


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Year-end festivities are almost at their peak and so is the feasting that accompanies them.


But the holiday season can be not so jolly an affair for those with conditions that force them to watch their diet.


The Straits Times looks at some tips for those with health conditions - and everyone, in general - to stay healthy while joining in the festive feasting.




One important way to not overeat is to avoid arriving at parties hungry, says Ms Wong Yuefen, senior dietitian with National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.


"Eat a balanced meal, a high-fibre snack or drink plenty of water before going to a party to avoid overeating. Don't 'save up' for a big meal as you are more likely to overindulge."


She adds that it is important to pace oneself and eat slowly and stop eating when one is comfortably full.


Those who wish to eat smarter can consider healthier options such as skinless turkey and shepherd's pie (but cut back on the meat filling) as well as fruit salad for dessert.


It may be the season for feasting, but do not take conventional wisdom off the menu. Avoid weight gain by watching your calorie intake.


As Ms Wong says, deep-fried and creamy foods are usually high in calories, as is alcohol, which should be consumed in moderation.


There will be fewer calories to worry about burning off with fruit, vegetables and steamed or grilled foods.


She also recommends diet drinks, plain tea, plain water or drinks with lower sugar content.


Hankering for a taste of all the Christmas goodies?


Keeping portion sizes small is key, advises Ms Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre.


Her other tips: "Prioritise the food items you crave the most and have them instead of having everything on the table. And limit Christmas feasting to the key dates."




Diabetics should limit their consumption of carbohydrates, says Ms Chia.


Instead, they should fill up on vegetables and limit their intake of gravy, cheeses, processed meat and desserts.


Ms Wong cautions against skipping a meal to "save up" for a big feast as this can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels.


Skipping meals may cause one's blood sugar levels to dip unhealthily low - especially dangerous for diabetics on medication to lower blood sugar. Having a big meal afterwards will cause a spike in blood sugar.


Small and regular meals are key for diabetics to spread their carbohydrate intake throughout the day, says Ms Wong.




Ms Wong advises people with high cholesterol to go for leaner cuts of meat and to remove the skin. Limit consumption of innards and sausage stuffing as well as avoid adding gravy, sauces or creamy salad dressings such as mayonnaise.


Foods that are grilled, steamed, boiled or stir-fried are also healthier choices compared with deep-fried ones, she says, adding that wholegrains, fruit and vegetables are better choices.


This means having food such as turkey, beef, ham and baked or mashed potato, or having vegetables and salads.




Lower your intake of foods with saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol if you have high blood pressure, says Ms Wong. "Weight gain can also cause one's blood pressure to increase."


Again, she advocates "more wholegrains, fruit and vegetables".


She adds: "Stay active and continue your physical exercise throughout the festive season."


Ms Chia cautions that gravy and processed meats commonly found in year-end feasts are high in salt and saturated fat. She suggests flavourful but lower-sodium alternatives such as balsamic vinaigrette dressing or a mix of lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and herbs such as rosemary or thyme, chilli and pepper.


Ms Wong also recommends healthy dips such as hummus, guacamole or yogurt.


Final tidings from Ms Chia: "Remember to focus on the joy of the season - such as the interactions - and only afterwards, the feasting."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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