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Eating Healthy During Christmas

You can barely look at the cornucopia of food on the table, your plate is still half full and there’s more coming, while dessert is not even in sight.  Sounds familiar? Indigestion and the unwanted extra padding on your waistline seem to be the inevitable gifts of the festive season. How to break the spell – or curse, more like it – with high-calorie traditional dishes on the menu in most every Hungarian household? Well, the angel might be in the details: swapping a few ingredients for healthy options and avoiding notoriously harmful cooking methods will do the trick, and leave you with sumptuously nutritious dishes and no guilt at all.

Expert advice from dietitian Nóra Galló

Easier done than said, let’s get to work!

  • A roast is tasty and heavy enough to deserve oven-cooked or gently steamed veggies on the side. Think baby carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beetroot, broccoli and mushrooms.
  • Spuds? Ditch that mash! Potatoes are too starchy. You’re better off with cooked cauliflower or roasted parsnips pureed and seasoned with herbs and spices. Nutmeg is so underrated!
  • Easy on the mayo. A dollop of yoghurt makes the dressing lighter, a squeeze of lemon makes it pleasantly tart.
  • Rice is a workaday staple. Why not go for a more interesting and tastier side dish? Earthy bulgur wheat, couscous, quinoa (especially the colourful 3-grain variety), millet or nutty buckwheat are perfect choices for the Christmas table. Diced vegetables, roasted nuts and seeds give the grain structure and finesse, pomegranate lends festive colour and zesty oomph.
  • You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. There’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned pickles. Fermentation makes them naturally probiotic, supporting gut health and aiding digestion.
  • Fish is often the main course of a Yule treat, and rightly so. Loaded with good fatty acids, it is best grilled, broiled or baked, sparingly seasoned with olive oil, a touch of garlic and lemon, stuffed with a twig of rosemary or thyme for added fragrance.
  • Desserts are the trickiest to tone down and make sure they still taste the part. Use wholegrain oatmeal, millet flour or almond meal instead of all-purpose white flour. They pack lots of fibre, vitamins and trace elements.
  • Sweets don’t have to taste all that sweet! Use less sugar and substitute with plant-based sweeteners, such as stevia and erythritol. Replace dried and candied fruits with fresh or frozen ones.
  • Don’t eat more than one slice at a time. Better still, skip dessert after the main course and serve it separately between meals as a snack. Smaller slices taste just as great, with half the calorie.

Lean and mean – how to cut back on calories?

  • Don’t rush to the main course; serve a salad or light soup first to partially fill the stomach and take away hunger. Eat less for the mains.
  • Avoid cream in dressings and sauces, opt for lighter options, such as mushroom sauce or dill and yoghurt dressing.
  • Drink a glass of water before you delve in. You will eat less.
  • However fast or slow you eat, you will only feel full and satiated after some 15-20 minutes. So eat slower and rest a bit between courses to avoid overeating.
  • Drink only dry wine and don’t touch sweet tasting alcohol. Make sure you drink enough water as well to keep hydrated.
  • The extra calories call for more exercise. Don’t be a couch potato! Get out there with family and friends for a fresh walk after a heavy feast to burn those extra kiloJoules.