10 tips to get ready for the Holidays!
Just a few boxes of the Advent calendar left to open: Christmas is near, with the New Year not far behind. Which means there’s a Christmas dinner to prepare. Decide on your menu in advance and set aside time to do the shopping on the 23rd: the groceries will stay fresh and you can already start preparing certain dishes on Christmas Eve.
We need to enjoy the good food and good company that the holiday season brings without feeling either guilty or deprived. To do so, it’s important to follow a balanced diet throughout the year, limiting our indulgences exclusively to the red-letter days of the calendar.
A few precautions can help us stay fit and healthy in this period, without renouncing the pleasure of food, family and friends. During the month of December, eat lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meats; totally avoid fried foods, cheese, cured meats, processed carbohydrates (crackers, snacks, sweets) and alcohol.
This way you’ll be in good shape for Christmas, without feeling guilty and ready to eat with greater awareness.
Here are some tips for dealing with Christmas dinner:
1 – Fasting beforehand?
It’s useless to skip the meal(s) before Christmas lunch/dinner. Have a light breakfast and either steamed fish or a soup with vegetables and/or legumes. And remember, you should maintain a light, low-fat diet in the days following Christmas as well to re-establish your body’s balance.
2 – Eat slowly
If you eat fast without chewing properly, you increase the risk of eating more and then running into digestive troubles. Think slow and steady: take small mouthfuls, chew slowly and savour the taste of each bite.
3 – Quality is the key
Avoid buying industrial products full of unhealthy fats and sugars, relying instead on home recipes with prime ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, organic eggs, fresh milk and seasonal veggies – lots of seasonal veggies!
4 – Vegetable and fish appetizer
It’s a good idea to enjoy some raw vegetables before the meal to avoid overeating. Try preparing a variety of fish and vegetable-based appetizers, leaving cheese and charcuterie for other occasions. A few examples: octopus and artichoke salad, marinated salmon with herbs, fennel and pomegranate salad, crudités with olive oil for dipping, red lentils with green apples.
5 – Keep it simple
Focus on simple preparations that don’t make the dishes too heavy with too many fats. Go easy with sauces, butter, cream, béchamel. It’s all about balance – e.g. if you use cream for the first course, don’t use butter to cook the veggies for the second course.
6 – Seconds?
There will be plenty of courses coming, so it’s better to have small portions and enjoy them all: this way you get to try a bit of everything will avoiding excess calories.
7 – Bread: just say no
During big holiday meals, avoid getting carried away with breadsticks and buns between one course and the next. Instead, get up and chat with your old uncle sitting alone at the end of the table!
8 – To drink or not to drink?
Avoid sparkling beverages, drink lots of water and allow yourself 1-2 glasses of wine when it’s time to toast.
9 – Dulcis in fundo
If you’re having an Italian Christmas, pandoro and panettone will surely be on the menu. When choosing them, don’t fall for discounted supermarket brands, and don’t buy them too far ahead of time. Choose well, artisanal and not industrial, from a reputable bakery that uses quality ingredients. And of course, stick with the classics, not the chocolate-covered or jam-filled or rum-soaked variants.
10 – Keep it moving!
When dinner is over, don’t recline immediately, take a nice long walk to help your digestion along. In general, try to keep active during the holiday season: the fact that the gym is closed is not an excuse!
Best wishes for a happy, healthy Christmas!
Dott.ssa Francesca Oggionni Dietitian