Guide to a perfect Christmas

Eat smart this Christmas: Roast turkey or honey-glazed ham?

Roast beef or lamb? Wine or champagne? Here's a guide to picking the healthier option

Roast turkey is a whole food that is low in sodium, while honey-glazed ham is highly processed and very high in sodium. Even when served with cranberry sauce and chestnut stuffing, turkey is a better choice.
Roast turkey is a whole food that is low in sodium, while honey-glazed ham is highly processed and very high in sodium. Even when served with cranberry sauce and chestnut stuffing, turkey is a better choice. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration when many of us overindulge in food and drink, or simply stuff ourselves silly.

But many festive meals and treats are high in sugar and fat.

Some of these holiday treats can even contain as many calories as a small meal, said Ms Pauline Xie, principal dietitian at the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.

"For instance, 2½ pieces of eclair, if eaten daily, would add an additional 500 kilocalories (kcal) to our daily calorie count," she warned. "This could result in your gaining half a kilogramme within a week."

Mind & Body roped in two dietitians to help you weigh up healthier choices this holiday season.


Which is healthier? A Christmas stollen - it contains half the fat and sugar compared with a log cake.

It is a bread recipe with fruits and nuts added, said Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a dietitian at Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants.

A log cake is usually coated with cream and has copious amounts of sugar.

What you can do: Have no more than one slice of stollen or log cake.


  • Turkey is a Christmas staple and yet not always very popular at the dinner table due to its dryness.

    However, you can create the perfect moist turkey with proper temperature control, as chef Ryan Hong from Chef For Hire will tell you.

    Look out for the Science pages in the Home section this Friday to learn more about the science behind the perfect Christmas.

    In it, chef Hong will show you how you can make use of physics to cook a turkey that is not at all dry.

    Also, find out why firs - a species of imported live tree - are in short supply, how to care for them and more.

    Furthermore, you can learn more about the interesting properties of five Christmas spices as well as mood-related behaviours.


Which is healthier? Calorie-wise, wine edges past champagne. Wine has about 83kcal per 100ml - which is considered as one standard drink - compared with champagne's 75 kcal per 100ml, said Ms Bibi Chia, the principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre.

What you can do: For both beverages, sip them slowly throughout the night. Ms Chia said the recommended limit for alcoholic drinks is one to two glasses for women, and two to three for men.


Which is healthier? Roast turkey is more nutritious as it is a whole food that is low in sodium (103mg per 100g), while ham is highly processed and very high in sodium (900mg per 100g), said Ms Reutens.

Ms Chia said roast turkey, even when served with cranberry sauce and chestnut stuffing, would be a better choice between the two.

What you can do: Remove the skin of the turkey and have it with more roasted vegetables, said Ms Chia.


Which is healthier? Both meats are high in protein and iron. "In general, if both are lean, they have a similar fat and caloric content of 170 to 180kcal and 8g of fat per 100g," said Ms Chia.

However, roast beef may be just a wee bit healthier than lamb, thanks to its cholesterol content.

Beef has about 83mg of cholesterol per 100g of meat, which is slightly lower than the 97mg per 100g of lamb, said Ms Reutens.

There is also a little less saturated fat in beef - at 3.4g per 100g. Lamb has 3.5g of saturated fat per 100g.

What you can do: Pick the leaner cuts of either meat and don't pile on the gravy.


Which is healthier? Both are high in calories and sugar, though gingerbread cookies can have more calories and sugar per 100g than mince pies, said Ms Chia.

For instance, mince pies can have 289kcal and 28g sugar per 100g, while gingerbread cookies can contain 381kcal and 44g sugar per 100g.

However, the recipes can vary. Also, these recipes can easily be altered so that people can enjoy more of the baked goods, said Ms Chia.

What you can do: Stick to one serving at a time. Have them just on Christmas Day, she suggested.


Which is healthier? Hot chocolate is less fattening by far. A 250ml mug has just 2g of fat, but the same amount of eggnog has 11g.

Eggnog is "decadent" as it contains heavy cream, whole milk and alcohol, said Ms Reutens. The drink can pack up to 224kcal per 250ml, while a mug of hot chocolate has less than 200kcal.

The nutrient content of eggnog depends on how much sugar, cream or chocolate you add to the recipe, said Ms Chia. In general, eggnog has more fat and cholesterol than hot chocolate, she said.

What you can do: Substitute the whole milk with low-fat milk for both drinks, said Ms Reutens. And go easy on the eggnog.


Spicy goodness at Christmas

Feeling stressed? Try laughing

What to say to those feeling holiday blues

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline Eat smart this Christmas: Roast turkey or honey-glazed ham?. Subscribe