How to Survive Christmas Dinner!

by Parents for Health Team on December 12, 2011

Healthy Christmas Dinner

Believe it or not, it is actually possible to have a healthy Christmas dinner!

It’s easy to overeat at Christmas, as we bombard ourselves with turkey, ham, sweets, trifle, cake & Christmas pudding. Sometimes you end up feeling like you’re more stuffed than the Christmas bird!

To keep your family healthy this Christmas, and to avoid the after-dinner slump, follow these tips:

You Don’t Need to Clear Your Plate

We tend to keep eating until the food in front of us is gone, and this is a recipe for overeating! Chew each mouthful, take your time over your food, and stop when you are full. Don’t feel the need to clear your plate – listen to your body, stop eating when you’re full, and encourage your kids to do the same.

Dump the Junk Food

Avoid high calorie “junk” snacks like sweets – there are enough goodies at Christmas. Do we really need to snack on sweets or cake whilst watching that movie?

Traditional Christmas Treats

Bring back some old Christmas favourites like satsumas, tangerines and nuts – these are very healthy. People who regularly snack on unsalted nuts are less likely to get heart disease, and fruit is a perfect healthy snack.

Be a Food Role Model.

If your kids see you avoiding veggies they may copy you as they try to be “grown up”. Try to set a good example!

Control Portion Size

Because we tend to eat what is in front of us, if you serve huge portions your family will be more likely to overeat:

  • Serve moderate-sized portions rather than mountains of food – this will help your kids to avoid overeating
  • If your family are still hungry, they can always go back for seconds

If you’re buying a new dinner set for Christmas, watch out – plate sizes have been getting bigger in recent years. If you have jumbo-sized plates, research shows that you’re more likely to overeat.

No TV Whilst Eating

Never watch TV whilst eating – you can’t concentrate on how full you feel, and will tend to overeat. It’s not a good idea to let your kids watch TV at mealtimes.

Healthy Fruit

Add some healthy fruit and veg to the Christmas menu!

Christmas Fruit & Vegetables

Include lots of vegetables in your Christmas feast – parsnips, carrots, broccoli, sprouts and swede. You could also include lots of fruit – make a fresh fruit trifle for dessert.

According to the World Health Organisation, low intake of fruit and veg is among the top 10 risk factors for disease. Eating fruits and vegetables every day could help prevent heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. Eating more fruit & veg can also help you and your kids to reach and maintain a healthy weight – so fresh fruit trifle is a great option!

The Healthy Plate

Make sure you serve plenty of veggies with your Christmas meat feast – parsnips, sprouts, carrots, broccoli, swede. Aim to fill half the plate with these health-giving foods. Vegetables are extremely good for you and your family. Even though vegetables like brussels sprouts and broccoli have anti-cancer properties, most children don’t eat enough veggies. Steaming veg helps them to keep their goodness, but boiling them is OK as well, so long as you don’t boil them for hours.

Roast vegetables are a tasty way of encouraging the kids to eat veg. Try roasting carrots, parsnips, peppers and small onions in a small amount of olive oil. You could even roast garlic cloves in their skin, which turns the garlic into a sweet & savoury paste. If you really can’t get the kids to try veg, mash some swede or parsnip into the mashed potatoes. In this way, your kids are getting health by stealth. Leftover vegetables can be kept in the fridge and used as ingredients in a Christmas week soup.

For the days following Christmas, try a healthy turkey sandwich on wholemeal bread with loads of crisp and crunchy salad. Tomatoes, lettuce, spring onion and cucumber are all good additions to a sandwich.

Remember that healthy eating is not just for Christmas – it’s for life! Try to turn these healthy eating habits into some  family New Year’s resolutions, for a happy & healthy 2012!

Photo by: licensed under Creative Commons

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