It is that magical time of the year again. With Christmas and New Year around the corner, it inevitably involves feasting and possibly overindulging in buffet spreads and booze. This festive period can be a challenging time to eat well. However, with mindful and strategic eating, it is still possible to be merry without the additional weight gain. Whether at buffets or home parties, here are some tips to help you make healthier choices:
Survey the spread
Take a walk around the buffet or party spread and look at all the options before filling your plate. This allows you to make informed choices and to prioritize what to put on your plate. Always practice the sequence of filling your plate with vegetables first, followed by protein and lastly, carbohydrates.
Mashed potatoes may complement many festive dishes. Unfortunately, this innocent looking dish is not only high in carbohydrates compared to other vegetables, they are also often prepared with butter, cream or milk. Replace mashed potatoes with lower carbohydrate alternatives such as roasted vegetables, fresh leafy greens, cherry tomatoes and etc.
Processed meats often find their way to Christmas parties and buffet spreads. Processed meats such as ham, sausages, bacon, and nuggets are high in sodium and increase your risk for heart disease and colorectal cancer. Instead of Christmas ham and sausages, choose grilled or baked fish, roasted turkey or chicken. If possible, choose lean meat (eg. Turkey or chicken breast) without skin to lower saturated fat intake.
Gravy, dressings, and sauces
Gravy, sauces, and salad dressings can be high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Pick yogurt-based dips or tomato-based salsas instead of full-fat and oil based dips.
Sweetened sugary beverages such as soft drinks, juices, fruit punches are packed with calories and sugar. A regular can of coke has as much as 35g of sugar, and a can of iced tea about 27g. Choosing unsweetened soft drinks, or even better, plain water, can prevent unnecessary consumption of empty calories.
Did you know that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can also lead to unwanted weight gain? One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories – almost as many as a gram of fat! Additionally, the calories add up quickly in drinks involving mixers such as syrup, soft drinks, and juices.
Some ways to control alcohol intake during this festive period is to alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water and pace yourself by taking small sips. Opt for lite beers and diet mixers for spirits. According to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, men should drink no more than two standard drinks a day, and for women, no more than one. One standard alcoholic drink is defined as a can (330 ml) of regular beer, half a glass (100 ml) of wine or 1 nip (30 ml) of spirit.
Choose desserts last. By the time you are done with your main meals, you will be fuller and less likely to overindulge in desserts. Healthier dessert options are fresh fruits, sorbet, and plain tea cakes.
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Brought to you by Olivia Wong, Dietitian of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
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The Straits Times (2017). Oh Sugar! Retrieved from:
British Nutrition Foundation (2018). Christmas and New Year. Retrieved from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/seasons/christmas-and-new-year.html?start=5
Health Hub (2019). Alcohol and Health – Set Your Drinking Limits. Retrieved from: