CHRISTMAS, a time for celebration and long holidays. It has irresistibly been a season for indulging like Father Santa. People stuff themselves with succulent Christmas ham, mouth-watering queso de bola, sweet chocolates, candies, and ice cream. With the variety of tempting food to choose from, no wonder many students find it hard to fit back into their uniforms once classes resume after the Christmas break.

But Christmas need not mean piling on pounds and suffering the “heavy” consequences. There are many ways to stay fit and healthy while enjoying the holidays.

Food for thought

According to Joan Sumpio, chief dietician of the UST Hospital Dietary Department, an ideal Christmas diet follows the rules of any diet therapy—liberalization and individualization.

Sumpio said that people can have a “liberalized diet” as long as they use healthier methods of cooking, like steaming vegetables instead of frying. An “individualized diet,” on the other hand, is when a preferred meal is healthy for the individual.

Once the eating starts, Sumpio says that it is important to serve and eat not only one’s favorites but to choose meals from a wide variety of food groups.

“During Christmas celebrations, it is important to have all the major food groups (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals) served with equal portions.” Sumpio said.

Healthy feast

When preparing Christmas meals, it is better to include dark-green vegetables, a variety of sliced fruits, complex carbohydrates such as bread, pastas, crackers, rice, lean meat, and poultry.

Sumpio said that people should go for fiber-rich breads such as wheat breads and five-grain bread instead of white bread since they contain more dietary fiber, a non-digestible carbohydrate vital to the health of the digestive system and lowers body cholesterol.

Coming Home

Foods containing fiber are good sources of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and folate.

People should also opt for high-fiber noodles this Christmas such as wheat noodles since high-fiber foods can reduce the risk for developing diabetes, colon and rectal cancer.

According to Sumpio, instead of using the usual high-fat, high-sodium, and high-calorie ingredients to cook your favorite Christmas treats, use light soy sauce, alternative sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Splenda, fat-substitutes, fat-free mayonnaise, no trans-fatty acid butters, and low-fat dips.

The usual cooking ingredients, when taken in excess, can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, making them unhealthy choices in a holiday of eating spree, Sumpio said.

Aside from numerous alternatives that can contribute to a healthy Christmas diet, preparation and cooking of meals should also be considered. “When we speak of an ideal diet, it always has to be on the safe side of food preparation. If the food is not prepared hygienically, we end up with a non-healthy meal,” Sumpio said.

To ensure hygienic food, she advised that food should be cooked at high temperatures through baking or boiling so that the microorganisms and bacteria present are killed.

In the end, eating in moderation is still the key to a healthier Christmas. “You can eat anything you want as long as it is not in excess of what you need,” Sumpio said.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), suggests 0.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, while there is no fixed RDA for carbohydrate, fat, and cholesterol as consumers may need more or less of these, depending on their physical condition.

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The nutritional content of foods found in food labels is one measure not to go overboard in munching calories. Together with fun-filled exercise, checking one’s appetite this Christmas is a perfect ingredient for celebrating a healthy holiday with the people we love most.


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