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The scoop on staying on the health track over the holidays

Emma Stirling
Emma Stirling APD

As we enter the home stretch to the holidays, tis the season to be jolly and cocktail parties, neighbourhood gatherings, work functions and backyard BBQs crowd our calendars, just as leftovers crowd our fridge and pantry. So, how can you stay on the health track with all this abundance? And what’s the smart approach to leftovers and food gifts? Here's the scoop.

Be a host, with the most When you plan your party aim for quality not quantity. Indulging your guests with seafood may be more expensive than a bowl of chips or crackers and high fat dip, but if it’s a special occasion the investment in your health goals is worth it. If you plan a right size portion of each course for each guest, you can stay on budget and not have leftovers to tempt you. Pass on the big plates. Your favourite salads look stunning served in a drinking glass with a dessert fork at party time, just as I did for my recipe for Hot smoked salmon and freekeh nicoise.

Bring a (healthy) plate A common holiday eating trap is the family and neighbourhood get-together. Everyone is so willing to bring a dessert, dip or dish that there is often way too much (rich and creamy) food on offer, not to mention a fridge groaning with leftovers. So tell your host that you will bring your signature Moroccan chickpea salad or our Low GI, Carisma potato salad with lemon yogurt dressing. You can then skip the creamy coleslaw and creamy pasta salad and fill half your plate with veggies (even if your brought them yourself!)

low GI potato salad with lemon yoghurt dressing

Let it go Pass on the cute-shaped shortbreads and mince pies and make your own gifts like preserved lemons, herb vinegars, lovely fruit baskets with a sprinkling of exotic nuts or grow-your-own pots of culinary herbs.

Stay safe Christmas is a high risk time for food poisoning, especially in places where summer heat can affect perishable, party food quickly. You need to take special care preparing food for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone whose immune system may be compromised. Follow the golden rules of food safety: use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meats and defrost meat and poultry in the fridge or butchers cool room; transfer perishable food in an esky or icebox; keep food in the fridge until the last minute or pull out small serves throughout the party; refrigerate leftovers as quickly as possible and use within 2-3 days, discarding any items that have been on the kitchen bench or buffet too long. Get creative with your leftover ham or turkey, like in our recipe for Turkey and bean chili with avocado salsa or Cajun stuffed peppers, and you’ll sail into the New Year in great shape.

Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and health writer with over ten years experience writing for major publications. She is editor of The Scoop on Nutrition – a blog by expert dietitians. Check it out for hot news bites and a healthy serve of what’s in flavour.