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Experts on How to Make your Christmas Feast Diet Friendly

Updated on: 21 December,2020 09:30 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Anindita Paul |

While this is the season for festive indulgences, it doesn't mean you have to forgo your nutrition goals

Experts on How to Make your Christmas Feast Diet Friendly

Vegan cake by Dr Rida Peerzada

There's a good reason why the holiday season is synonymous with indulgences. According to a 2017 survey by a nutrition supplement company, an average Christmas dinner contributes a whopping 5,200 calories and 190 g of fat. Further, many festive favourites come loaded with carbs and include generous portions of meat and dairy, making it tough on those following restrictive diets (such as keto or low-sodium) or vegans. However, experts say that some creative thinking and advance planning can go a long way to ensure your Christmas meals are inclusive and wholesome.

(From left) Dr Rida Peerzada; Karishma Chawla
(From left) Dr Rida Peerzada; Karishma Chawla

For the calorie conscious
Nutritionist and lifestyle educator Karishma Chawla emphasises on the importance of planning the menu in advance:
>> List healthy recipes and keep ingredients handy so you aren't compelled to substitute caloric ingredients in desperation.
>> Pick lean proteins such as chicken, fish, turkey, low-fat paneer, or vegan options such as tofu, jackfruit, and legumes .
>> Swap fried potatoes with baked potatoes, or baked turnip fries.
>> Replace wraps made of corn and refined flour with celery ones filled with lean protein and veggies.
>> Thicken the gravies with nuts such as cashews and almonds, rather than corn starch and full-fat cream.
>> Replace white rice with brown or red.
>> Use almond flour to bind vegetables instead of corn starch or bread.
>> Use anti-inflammatory oils such as olive and rice bran oil for cooking.
>> For snacks, replace refined flour sticks and crackers with olives, whole-grain alternatives, and vegetable sticks made of carrot and cucumber served with guacamole, hummus, or hung curd dips.
>> Replace those desserts that are rich in white sugar with fruit-based options or those that use dates or other natural sweeteners.

Dr Siddhant Bhargava, a fitness and nutritional scientist and co-founder of Food Darzee, points out that the occasional indulgence (up to four cheat meals a week) will not throw your diet off course.
"A more feasible goal is to focus on maintaining your weight. The 5:2 rule can help in offsetting your calorie-dense indulgences. Consume only 800 to 850 calories for two days and regular meals on the other five days. Replace a few regular meals with cheat meals. If you will be eating a heavy meal later in the day, prepare in advance by eating mostly lean proteins (eggs, chicken, or protein shakes) for breakfast and lunch. By doing so, you are meeting your daily protein goals while consuming very few calories," he says.

For those on the keto diet
>> Replace mashed potatoes with steamed cauliflower mash, seasoned with garlic powder (not granules), and a sharp cheese.
>> Use almond flour instead of wheat flour. Replace sugar with a mix of stevia and powdered erythritol. Mixing these two keto-friendly sweeteners greatly reduces the aftertaste from each sweetener.
>> Since berries are keto-friendly, use a mix of dried and unsweetened cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Soak these in white rum and use in your Christmas cake.
>> For cookies, use a mix of almond flour, powdered flax seeds, and a little bit of powdered chia seeds. Replace regular chocolate chips with Lindt 85 per cent chocolate broken
into chips.
>> For breads, replace flour with almond flour. Use baking soda, chia seed powder, and flaxmeal. Add chopped jalapenos, olives, and oregano for flavour.
>>Any type of unsweetened berries can be boiled with a little water, stevia, erythritol, and xanthan gum to make jam. Add a splash of lime when the jam has cooled.
>> Indulge in liquor as long as you combine it with sugar-free chasers or water. Although alcohol will not kick you out of ketosis, it will stall the fat burn until it is digested and out of your system.
-Devansh Jhaveri, CEO at Hustle Foods

For diabetics and those on a low-sodium diet
Dr Bhargava says, "Eat on time. Also eat healthy fats, such as nuts, with your meals. Nuts take longer to digest and slow down the digestion of everything else you have eaten." Chawla advises using herbs such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, thyme and cinnamon to flavour food while minimising the use of salt.

Devansh Jhaveri and Dr Siddhant Bhargava
Devansh Jhaveri and Dr Siddhant Bhargava

For vegans
"Vegan milk, butter and egg-replacers can be used in most recipes. You can either make almond, soy, or coconut milk or purchase them from online stores. Add some vinegar to make buttermilk. Most vegan cakes use oil instead of butter. Instead of eggs, use mashed bananas, applesauce, or aquafaba (chickpea water), depending on the recipe," says Dr Rida Peerzada, a home baker at Rather Bake. You can also prepare condensed milk using coconut milk powder. While vegans cannot recreate a whole Christmas roast, Dr Peerzada says that soy-based mock meats work well in vegan mince pies.

Healthy Roast Chicken

Healthy roast chicken
This holiday classic is easily adaptable to a lower-calorie and nutritionally-dense format, says chef Ishijyot Surri, executive chef at SJI Hospitality and Foods.

Chef Ishijyot Surri

For roast chicken:
>> 1 whole chicken (800 g to 1 kg)
>> 20 g chopped onions
>> 10 to 15 asparagus tips
>> 40 g baby potatoes (cut in half)
>> 40 g chopped carrot

For chicken marinade:
>> 5 g to 9 g Dijon mustard
>> 10 ml virgin olive oil
>> 5 g crushed garlic
>> 3 g fresh thyme
>> 3 g fresh rosemary
>> 60 g hung curd
>> Pink salt and crushed black pepper to taste

Wash the whole chicken thoroughly and drain out the excess water. For the marinade, in a mixing bowl, mix the hung curd with the fresh thyme and rosemary. Add the crushed garlic, Dijon
mustard, pink salt, and crushed black pepper. Now, marinate the whole washed chicken for about 40 minutes at room temperature in the marinade. Lightly grease a roasting pan. Place the marinated chicken and vegetables in it. Sprinkle some salt and crushed pepper over the vegetables.

Roast the chicken in the pre-heated oven at about 160 degrees Celsius for 35 minutes, and later at 220 degree Celsius for five to 10 minutes until it is visibly golden in colour. Serve the whole roast chicken with the chicken jus and vegetables.

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