Christmas brings about enough stress with presents to buy and kids to be kept entertained. The last thing you want to worry about is that extra weight gain. Keep your waistline and wallet in check this festive season, with a few helpful tips.
Cenovis Home Economist, Mandy dos Santos, shares her top five tips for a healthy and stress free silly season. Take heed of Mandy’s sure-fire food preparation and budgeting advice to enjoy festive celebrations while keeping your waistline and hip pocket in check.
1. Mix up your festive traditions
Who says you need to prepare a carb-heavy roast every year? Don’t be afraid to start your own Christmas traditions that align to your budget. The stress of having to create a sit-down three course meal, something which may not be financially viable for many, can add strain to what should be an enjoyable time of year.
Why not host a Christmas brunch rather than lunch? There is a myriad of deliciously healthy muesli, smoothies, muffins and quiches you can create – not to mention it frees up the afternoon for outdoor activities or a nap on the couch! If you do choose to entertain over lunch, opt for more informal, lighter and easy to prepare meals. The heat of Australian summer lends itself to fresh seafood platters, BBQ prawns, cold meats and festive salads.
Try this healthy Baked Christmas Granola
2. Make a list and check it twice
Regardless of what menu you create, identify whether you can prep, cook and even freeze some of the dishes in advance so you don’t need to spend the bulk of Christmas Day in the kitchen. If you opt to prep and refrigerate prior to the big day, don’t prepare food more than four days in advance to avoid any spoilage or food safety issues (and prevent altering the nutritional content).
Keep these menu items in mind for your next festive gathering:
Dips: Hummus, vegetable based dips and pesto can be easily prepared a week or more in advance. Simply place in a sealed bag, flatten and store in the freezer.
Mini canapé pikelets: Mini pikelets are the perfect base for a variety of savoury canapés and sweets, and can remain frozen for a few weeks. Make sure they are placed in sealed bags to avoid ice crystals forming. Add cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill, or a chocolate spread with fresh raspberries.
For the fridge
Some foods that can be partially prepared in advance include:
Roast potatoes: Steam for 20 minutes. You can either place them in the oven immediately after steaming for a further 20 minutes or leave the roasting until the actual day. Cool and cover the potatoes before refrigerating.
Pasta salads: Cook the pasta a few days before, rinse, pat dry and chill. Try to remove as much moisture as possible to avoid destroying the integrity of the pasta and creating a breeding ground for bacteria.
Ham and turkey: Cook in advance, cool and refrigerate. You can serve the meat cold or reheat on the day. Turkey tends to lose its moisture when reheating, so add a drop of water or oil before placing in the oven.
3. Christmas favourites without the calories
For many, healthy eating and exercise routines take a backseat during the festive season, with the abundance of Christmas desserts and treats such as rum balls, puddings and shortbread proving too irresistible. It is still possible to enjoy your favourite Christmas treats guilt-free and prevent unwanted weight gain by being aware of sugar content, avoiding mindless eating and choosing healthy homemade alternatives including:
• Protein balls: Substitute rum balls for delicious protein balls made with nuts, seeds and superfood fruits. For a tropical flavour, mix chopped cashew nuts, lime juice, coconut and honey. Alternatively, combine goji berries, cacao and almond butter for a seemingly indulgent snickers-like snack!
• Christmas pudding: Let’s face it, how can we go without Christmas pudding? To negate the ingredients in the pudding itself, serve with a creamy sorbet of mango, banana and coconut milk whipped together. Rather than adding cream, try a raspberry coulis with fresh blended raspberries, lime juice and maple syrup.
• Christmas florentines: While shortbread is a favourite gift to give (or receive!) at Christmas time, you can mix up tradition by making your own Christmas florentines with raw cacao, coconut oil, dried fruits and nuts. For a festive feel, choose contrasting coloured ingredients like red goji berries or cranberries and green pepitas.
There are many ways to get in the Christmas spirit at social gatherings this festive season without overindulging in alcoholic beverages. Mocktails are a delicious and healthy alternative to sugary pre-mixed drinks and are the perfect refreshment on a hot summer day.
5. Tighten Santa’s belt
Battling the crowds to purchase last minute Christmas gifts and food can be chaotic, and you’re much more likely to overspend when stressed and under pressure. Follow Mandy’s helpful saving hints below to avoid the financial aftershock of the festive season:
• Shop around online for the best deals for hams, turkeys and even seafood as prices can fluctuate greatly in the lead up to Christmas. In fact, buying the bulk of your groceries online will prevent impulse buys and save a lot of time as most supermarkets will deliver straight to your door!
• Leave your credit card at home and pay with cash instead. It is easier to keep track of how much you’re spending and provides a visual reminder of your budget.
• If you’re hosting a Christmas gathering, don’t be afraid to ask your guests to pitch in by bringing a dish. The less you need to organise, the more stress-free you day will be!