Make better food choices this Christmas.
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, 21/2 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.
LOG CAKE OR STOLLEN
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.
WINE OR CHAMPAGNE
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.
ROAST TURKEY OR HONEY-GLAZED HAM
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.
ROAST BEEF OR ROAST LAMB
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.
MINCE PIES OR GINGERBREAD COOKIES
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.
EGGNOG OR HOT CHOCOLATE
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.
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‘.