A fresh look at The Christmas Meal

Guest Post by Sally Marchini – Dietitian

My family celebrated Christmas Day a month early this year because we’ll all be in different parts of the world on 25th December, and we value our annual family get together. I thought it was a good opportunity to remind you how easy it is to provide a delicious and nutritious lunch, especially for us in Australia with the hot weather, that won’t disrupt your usual diabetes routine too much whilst still enjoying your Christmas celebrations. I’ve also included a few of our family recipes for your enjoyment.

Ours was held at my brother’s home in Sydney. We had 20 family members expected, including 7 children under the age of 14.  Our Christmas foods tradition follows a Red, White and Green theme to look Christmassy. My Mum is the organiser and she delegates one dish to each of the family groups, so not all the preparation and cooking is left to one person (although you’ll notice that she does more than her own fair share!). Sharing that load really does minimise the stress often associated with these large family gatherings.

 

The basic idea is to include more plant-based foods, and provide a treat or two that you save for these such special occasions.

We arrived to bowls of pistachio nuts – perfect as each nut must be opened first, thereby minimising overeating potential – and olives. Perfect with a glass of bubbly to get us all in the mood for our Christmas feast ahead! 🙂

First course are the cold green and red soups. 

I made the green zucchini soup which is so easy (6 zucchini, 1 onion lightly sautéed. Add 1 litre chicken stock, one chopped potato and some fresh dried tarragon with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 mins or until potato is cooked through. Allow to cool. Blend and refrigerate).

 

One of my Sister-in-laws made the red tomato gazpacho which is just pureed tomatoes with an onion/ lemon juice flavour added, plus diced cucumber and ham (from the main event).

Both these soups are very popular across the whole family. The children tend to love the zucchini soup the best.  I like to indulge in a small bowl of both so I can enjoy both yummy flavours.

Buffet in the kitchen.

Our centrepiece is a whole ham that my Mum makes a glaze for and bakes. It’s served at room temperature as there usually no room in the fridge, and that’s where the salt comes into its own as a preservative until there’s room to get it into the refrigerator.

 

Of course, the ham in your meal could be replaced with any protein source that you and your family enjoy including the traditional favourites of turkey and seafood.

Traditionally we’ve had cold baby potatoes tossed in fresh herbs and olive oil for our carb salad (excellent for resistant starch and glycemic management), however this year Mum found a recipe for a quinoa and cannellini bean salad that was also full of fresh herbs.  It was very delicious, but also more work than the potatoes.

 

Then the non-starchy salads – we have a tomato salad, a green avocado salad and asparagus with parmesan, so there are plenty of plant foods to fill up on.

 

 

This year Mum found an unusual tomato recipe that had pomegranate seeds and lots of fresh herbs. Again it was very delicious but I think she underestimated how long it would take to dice up all those coloured tomatoes.  It was flavoured with lots of chopped garlic, fresh herbs and olive oil.  Usually we do sliced beefsteak tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves on top, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I don’t think you can beat that one for simplicity and flavour!

Desserts

We don’t really enjoy the richness of the traditional Christmas desserts in our family. This year another of my Sister-in-laws and one of my Aunts were asked to bring a dessert with no guidelines so we ended up with a pavlova topped with lovely fresh fruit, and a light lemon ricotta cheesecake that my Sister-in-Law found on a blog called ‘Marley & Lockyer’ with you as it’s so easy and suitable for us with diabetes.

We served ours with low-fat icecream, but you could also use low-fat Greek yogurt rather than cream.

For those of you who really enjoy the Christmas puddings and mince pies, the December 2014 issue of Australian Healthy Food Guide magazine included a feature called ’10 of the best Christmas treats – enjoy your favourite sweets for fewer kJs!’ which I encourage you to read.  In there they rate the ‘Best Mince Pie’ as a bite-size Woolworths Free From Gluten Fruit Mince Bit as a ‘real taste of Christmas’ for only 522kJ (125cal).

Reminders

I hope you found some healthy inspirations here for your Christmas main meal. I’d remind you to have a read of the blog I wrote for Diabetes Counselling Online entitled ‘Five tips for managing diabetes at events where food choices are likely to be poor’ and remember these tips when you’re at your own Christmas food celebration.

 

I’d also encourage others of you to share your own healthy and special favourite Christmas dishes in the comments below please!

Wishing you all compliments of the season with a reminder about enjoying everything in moderation, except the love and goodwill that we can all enjoy in excess across the Christmas season. Sally 🙂

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. 

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