The Holidays are coming up, and people are most likely excited for the festivities. However, the Philippine College of Physicians warns that people are more likely to suffer a heart attack/stroke and die during this time of the year. One of the factors identified to contribute to this phenomenon is food and alcohol binging.
Eating healthy during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to turn into a Grinch, or that you have to skip the festivities just to avoid binging on unhealthy food. Here are a few tips and hacks to make it easier for you to achieve a Ligtas Christmas para sa Healthy Pilipinas!
1. Have a plan.
They say failing to plan is planning to fail. Plan your healthy holiday menu. Be creative! Healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Reinvent your favorite dishes by finding healthy alternatives. If you can, opt for home cooked meals so you’ll know what is going into your food. It’s also a great opportunity to bond with your family while prepping. If you know there won’t be any healthy options, bring healthy food to share in your family gatherings. It’s a great way of sharing your healthy lifestyle with your loved ones.
2. Mindful eating.
It takes some time before satiety registers in your brain, so take your time before taking second servings. Be in the moment. Catch up with your family members in between. You can also use smaller plates, and finish everything on it before going back for more food. This delay allows your brain to process if you’re already full. Eating slowly also allows you to relish every bite. Food during the holidays are special and not your everyday fare; so savor your food!
3. Be aware of your portions.
Make moderation your mantra. Remember “Pinggang Pinoy”, and automatically fill up half of your plate with vegetables and fruits. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean your food requirements for vegetables are no longer there. You need at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day. A fistful of your leafy greens, or a cupful of your non-starchy vegetables already make one serving. Add a fruit cup and you’re almost there!
4. Healthier alternatives.
Choose Whole Foods and look for ways to level up the nutrients in your food. Watching your carbohydrate intake? Cauliflower rice is currently very popular, but RAINBOW VEGGIE RICE is definitely aiming to take the spotlight! Just use non-starchy vegetables (red cabbage, broccoli, bell pepper, carrots, turnip) and pulse them in the food processor to achieve that rice texture. Serving chips and dip for finger foods? Swap the dip for hummus or citrusy-herb-based dips. You can also load up on spices to boost up on antioxidants. Try peanut-miso chickpea salad or a plant-based masala. The spices will definitely satisfy your palate, and several nutritional requirements.
5. Make it colorful.
The holidays are festive and so should the colors of your food be! Reds and greens and yellows are definitely in! The more colorful, the better. What better way to color up your dishes than incorporating plenty of vegetables? Try out exotic side dishes for a change, and incorporate a local twist like using alugbati for Sri-langkan Mallung; or making plant-based meatballs from our humble mung bean.
6. Drink. Drink. Drink.
Skip the sugary beverages and try fruit infused soda water. It has less calories/sugar and is still very refreshing. If you drink alcohol, hydrate with a glass of water in between drinks. Allow your food to settle as you chit chat over a cup of hot tea. Local flavors like tanglad and pandan are a must try.
“Healthy Holidays” may seem like an unusual thing to aim for, but it is certainly desirable and opportune. It may seem cliché, but health is indeed the best gift that you can give yourself and your family this Christmas Season. Be sure to celebrate a Ligtas Christmas para sa Healthy Pilipinas! Follow the mask, hugas, iwas, airflow, plus bakuna to ensure a happy, healthy, and safe Christmas celebration!
Article by Marika Biag, MD
Doc Marika is an anesthesiologist and acupuncturist who has a special interest in healthy eating! Check out Kusina Ni Marika on Facebook (and @kusinanimarika on Instagram) for more tips and recipes on how to maintain healthy eating habits for the holidays and all throughout the year.