Have a merry feast and stay healthy too

Healthier Christmas offerings on the market include Bud of Joy's organic log cake, Saint Pierre Market's Chef's Favourite salad (above), The Bakery Depot's flourless chocolate log cake and Antoinette's La Foret savoury sandwich cake.
Healthier Christmas offerings on the market include Bud of Joy's organic log cake, Saint Pierre Market's Chef's Favourite salad (above), The Bakery Depot's flourless chocolate log cake and Antoinette's La Foret savoury sandwich cake.PHOTO: SAINT PIERRE MARKET

Although festive foods are usually high in calories, it does not mean you have to avoid them completely

It's the time for feasting but why not indulge in a healthier way?

With some planning, it is possible to have a Christmas feast that is yummy and still good for you.

You can use more herbs and spices instead of salt and replace part of the cream with milk, for instance.

For party-goers, simple tips such as removing the skin of the turkey or chicken, choosing leaner cuts of meats and eating more vegetables can help to cut your calorie intake.

Although festive foods such as roast pork with crackling, candies, chocolate, cakes and puddings are high in calories, it does not mean you have to avoid them completely.

  • The price of overeating

    Overeating may lead to bloating and nausea. It can also precipitate acid reflux with heartburn. This form of indigestion causes a burning sensation in the chest, due to stomach acid entering the oesophagus.

    You can prevent the occurrence of heartburn and bloating by keeping to regular mealtimes and avoiding late suppers or bingeing at buffets, for instance. If you do experience heartburn or bloating, simple over-the-counter medications like antacids can usually help to relieve the symptoms quickly.

    However, if the symptoms recur frequently or if there is associated weight loss, a sensation of food being stuck when swallowing, frequent vomiting or black stools, one should seek medical advice early.

    • Source: Dr Yim Heng Boon, senior consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist, Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre

It is the amount you eat and how often that matters, said Ms Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre.

"If festive dining is limited to only one occasion, I would almost say the person can eat whatever he wants," she said. "However, for most people, the celebration goes on for a few days or even weeks."

Ms Chia suggested that party hosts can allow guests, especially those with dietary restrictions, to bring their own dishes.

During this season, those who are chronically ill or have other health concerns will have to take more care to keep to their diets.

 

Mr Derrick Ong, dietitian and director of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy, advised those with diabetes to aim for low glycaemic index foods like yam, pumpkin and multigrain bread, and to eat lots of vegetables which can be accompaniments to the usual Christmas fare.

"For those on insulin or diabetic medications, it's best to watch the alcohol too, as the combination might lead to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)," he said.

People who have kidney failure but are not on dialysis treatment will need to go easy on the roast meat, turkey and other protein, he said. They should do the same with the gravies and sauces to keep their sodium intake in check, regardless of whether they are on dialysis or not, he added.

Everyone else should just eat in moderation and take care not to eat food that they cannot tolerate.

It may be a season of feasting but that's not the reason to forget about your health, particularly for those who are ill, recovering from an illness or have allergies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Have a merry feast and stay healthy too'. Print Edition | Subscribe