Christmas and the summer holidays are a great time of fun, inclusive of lots of delicious food, but moderation is key to enjoying a happy and healthful festive period.
My nine year old daughter came home this week and asked for some help with her spelling homework – antonyms were the task. So as we talked through antonyms for words such as natural (abnormal was the antonym we came up with) and it made me think about Christmas time and the summer holidays that are just around the corner.
The one word that I try to live by during this busy season is ‘moderation’ to which I think the antonym would be ‘excessive’. When it comes to healthy eating I try not to live by too many rules, but ‘everything in moderation’ is certainly my motto. So I thought I would explore this motto further.
What is moderation?
I describe moderation as making sure the five food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein foods and dairy/alternatives) make up the vast majority of our diet. And within each of these food groups make a note to check the quality of food that you are eating. Are there improvements that could be made? Instead of the muesli bars that you have been buying for snacks, could you instead make a big batch of your own trail mix?
Travelling Trail Mix
Mix together some sunflower seeds, pepitas, dried apricots (or dried fruit of your choice), pretzels and nuts. Portion out into snack size zip lock bags.
Planning ahead is important. If you are catching up with friends for a BBQ, plan to have a smaller lunch than usual or the day after you might have smaller portions to balance it all out. Even getting your lunch ready in the morning when you have your breakfast (much like packing a school lunch) means that your next meal is ready to go and you are much less likely to choose food that is not such a good choice. My best days are when my meals are prepped early to eat.
I love serving up food on platters for children and adults. Platters are perfect for lunches, snacks, dinners or any get together. Children love making their own choices, so including lots of good choices on a platter supports this.
Share Platters: Perfect for holiday lunches, snacks, dinners or any get together
- Carrot, celery, cucumber, capsicum, snow peas, tomato, mushrooms, broccoli, steamed corn, roast potato, etc.
- Watermelon, stone fruit, bananas, kiwi fruit, strawberries, pineapple, grapes, etc.
- Cold cooked pasta, pitta bread, wholegrain crackers, dry cereal, fresh popcorn
- Grilled fish, boiled eggs, grilled/steamed chicken, cold roast meats, meat balls
Dairy and alternatives
- Cheese, tofu, frozen yoghurt blocks, mini frittatas
- Sugary drinks such as cordial, juice, soft drink
- Packaged and processed food such as biscuits, crisps, cakes, ice cream, sausages, chocolate
How hungry are you?
This is a key point – take time to notice if you are truly hungry. Recently my six year old and three year old only ate half of the piece of birthday cake that was given to them. Rather than telling them they needed to finish it first (which I often overhear at birthday parties) I said that we could put the cake away for later if they felt like it. Children have an innate sense of knowing when they have had enough to eat. We adults could learn from them!
Notice the smell, taste and texture of food … there is great research now showing the importance of mindfulness in our eating.
As adults we can practice mindfulness with our eating by eating a bit slower. Next time you sit down to eat (I know – sitting down is a luxury – but it is important) put a bite of food into your mouth, put down your cutlery, chew slowly and take a big breath when you have finished that mouthful. Notice the smell, taste and texture of food. Yes this will take longer, but there is great research now showing the importance of mindfulness in our eating. And this strategy can be used with others around, simply by taking a small break in between mouthfuls.
Water – the best choice
Sugary drinks such as juice, cordial, soft drink, sports drinks are best avoided. They offer no nutrition at all – instead choose a water or sparkling water to keep you well hydrated over the summer months.
“There are many health benefits to eating fish – even for children, including improvements in academic performance, and improved blood levels.”
Try to include some fish and/or seafood a couple of times a week – a great lean protein food to include over the summer months that keeps us full thanks to the good omega-3 fats that it contains. Only 20 per cent of Australian households eat the recommended two serves of fish per week, with cost being the main reason why people don’t eat fish. There are many health benefits to eating fish – even for children, including improvements in academic performance, and improved blood levels. And don’t forget that tinned fish is a great option and easy to keep in the pantry.
And finally, enjoy the Christmas and holiday period!
Salmon Fishcakes Recipe
400g salmon, no skin
2 x potatoes
1 x sweet potato
2 tablespoons light coconut milk
Chopped fresh herbs such as chives or coriander
1-2 tablespoons of curry paste eg: green curry paste
Salad to serve
1. Peel potato and sweet potato and cut in chunks. Steam for 12-15 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool. Mash.
2. Chop salmon into small cubes. It doesn’t have to be really small as it cooks quickly.
3. Add salmon to potato mix with coconut milk.
4. Add fresh herbs and curry paste and mix fishcake mixture. (I usually split the mixture into two and leave the curry paste out of one portion for the kids)
5. Roll approximately ¼ cup of mixture in breadcrumbs, cover and refrigerate until needed.
6. Pre-heat frypan or BBQ with minimal amount of olive oil. Grill on each side for 3-4 minutes or until browned.
7. Enjoy with plenty of salad.