We go out of our way to help alcohol-intolerant friends and family steer clear of the drinks cabinet over the festive season, yet when it comes to providing hospitality to those who are bravely trying to manage weight, we let ourselves down very badly. With obesity now a major national health issue, December dining can be the very hazard which sees weight-losers and maintainers fall seriously off the wagon. So if you really care for your loved ones, put a stop to all-day eating on Christmas day, build healthy options into your festive meal plans, and make time on the 25th for a little enjoyable exercise. Here’s how!
Start the day with a decadent but protein-rich breakfast that will satisfy the appetite and avoid all-day snacking. Include fine fish such as gravlax or cold-salmon served on Swedish knackerbrod or toasted rye, or Spanish omelette filled with avocado and baked cherry tomatoes. For the vegetarians, serve grilled vege rissoles and smoked or marinated tofu with grilled stone fruit.
Skip morning tea altogether in favour of an outing to a park, beach, or local lake or river which you can walk or cycle to. Pack swimsuits for a dip if swimming is an option, and include the petanque balls and cricket set – or any other equipment that will get your guests moving.
Pack a picnic finger food lunch, and while treat food is obviously going to be part of this, be sure to also make a feature of crisp, new-season vegetables such as late asparagus, baby carrots, red and green capsicum slices, cold new potatoes, and fast-blanched broccoli and cauliflower florets. Team these with a range of tasty spreads and dips, and while its perfectly okay to include some that are rich and creamy, the secret to being a good host is to also offer special but low-calorie options such as broad bean and mint patè and spicy pumpkin spread.
Everyone enjoys a sweet treat at Christmas but avoid over-indulgence by including in your picnic just enough Christmas cake fingers or Christmas mince pies for everyone to have 1 or 2 servings (and not 3 or 4!). If you’re making the mince pies yourself, use mini rather than regular-sized baking pans.
When it comes to alcohol, by all means pack the vino, but also include low-alcohol wines (which are generally lower in calories), and always have available chilled tomato juice, and sugar-free but ‘grown-up’ soft drinks such as diet lemon-lime-and-bitters, ginger beers, and diet tonic served with bitters.
Instead of making food the feature, opt for something entirely different such as present-opening, breaking open the Christmas crackers, or watching a Christmas-themed movie. For extra fun, teach your guests some festive serviette-folding techniques and display the results on the dinner table in the evening. Serve simple snack foods such as a bowls of nuts and cherries.
It’s okay to serve dinner with all the trimmings but if you want to take care of calorie-conscious friends, be sure to serve the ‘extras’ on the side. Instead of dousing the veges with butter, serve the butter in small dishes alongside the vegetables. Leave the gravy in your best jugs for self-service, and make the mint sauce using a sugar-free recipe. Serve meats on platters rather to individual plates so guests can decide for themselves to opt-in or out of the crackling.
When it comes to deserts, leave the cream off the pav and trifle, and serve it in a bowl alongside instead. Make the fruit salad a fresh rather than a canned one, and include sugar-free jellies and ice-cream as well as the more traditional varieties. And don’t go overboard with the bubbly!
Quit some calories with an evening family walk around your local neighbourhood to check out the Christmas lights and festive trees. This can be a really social way to end the day – because so many other health-conscious individuals will be doing the same!